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Dry Skin Patches

The development of dry skin patches is a very common skin condition characterized by wrinkly or flaky looking patches on different parts of the body. This HealthHearty article explains the common causes for this problem.
Loveleena Rajeev
Last Updated: Apr 5, 2018
Most of the time, dry skin patches occur due to skin's exposure to the harsh rays of the sun, or dry air during winters. If not that, then the most common reason for dry skin patches could be usage of soaps and cosmetics that contain harsh chemicals. The most common health reasons associated with dry skin include eczema and psoriasis. If the patches do not go within a few days, consulting a doctor is a must.
With the onset of winters, experiencing dry skin is something that is not at all unusual. During winters, the skin loses moisture faster than any other time of the year. However, dry skin patches, or xerosis as it is medically known, can occur in any other season in case of people affected by other related skin conditions. The skin needs adequate moisture to stay smooth and supple. Hence, when sebum levels drop, the skin turns dry, flaky, and sensitive. If you are suffering from dry skin, your skin might feel tight and it can be accompanied by itching and redness.
Healthy skin is very important, as it is the body's first defense against all infections. Skin that is dry, scaly, or flaky is at a greater risk of being infected with bacteria. This is because, as we scratch dry, itching skin, small microscopic tears develop on the skin, which facilitates the entrance of germs, which in turn leads to an infection. The occurrence of dry patches on skin is not restricted to a specific part of our body. They can appear on any part of the body, and the legs and arms are the most susceptible. Dry skin patches on the neck or face could become a cause of cosmetic concern.
Factors Causing Dryness in the Skin
It is not just environmental conditions that contribute to low sebum secretion. Many skin-related conditions including infections, as well as some diseases like diabetes and hypothyroidism can cause the skin to become dry, flaky, or patchy. Some of the reasons for the appearance of dry patches on the body have been listed below.
Environmental Causes
Seasonal Changes
The low or high levels of moisture in the environment can make the skin feel dry. This is most likely to happen during winters, when there is very little moisture in the air.
Exposure to Sun
Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause extensive damage to the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of the skin. Collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis break down faster, when exposed to the ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This in turn causes many skin problems like dark spots, fine lines, wrinkles, and dry skin.
Artificial Climatic Conditioning
Central heating and air conditioning is another cause for dry skin. Whether heating or cooling, these artificial methods reduce humidity from the room.
Cosmetic Causes
Harsh Toiletries and Detergents
Many soaps, body washes, and detergents make use of chemicals that strip the body of its natural moisture, and do very little in terms of replenishing it. Even harsh shampoos can lead to a dry, itchy scalp. One of the primary reasons for dry skin patches on face is the use of cosmetics that contain harmful chemicals. And as facial skin is more delicate compared to other parts, it gets affected quickly.
Hot Showers
It is very tempting to shower with hot water in the cold winter months. However, you need to remember that taking frequent long baths, with very hot water causes the skin to dry out. Even swimming in chlorinated swimming pools or salty sea water will deplete the skin's natural moisture.
Medical Conditions
A very common skin condition, eczema, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, can also cause dry skin patches. This condition is characterized by scaly, flaky, red patches, cradle cap (dermatitis of the scalp in infants) and also tiny fluid-filled lesions. Its occurrence could be caused due to genetic, hormonal, or environmental factors.
A chronic, autoimmune disease, psoriasis is caused due to a type of white blood cell called T lymphocyte or T cell that attacks healthy skin cells. Stress, infections, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking can also trigger it, leading to a severe form of psoriasis. It is characterized by red scaly patches, discoloration of the nails, and skin inflammation.
Hypothyroidism is a thyroid disorder, wherein the body lacks sufficient thyroid hormone, which in turn slows down the body's metabolism. This condition could cause the skin to become pale and dry.
Dry skin patches can be treated with a variety of drugs. For skin that has gone dry due to environmental reasons, you can use a good quality moisturizer or emollient. You can also add an extra dose of vitamin E through supplements and/or diet. Experts also suggest that taking prolonged bath/shower, and rubbing your body vigorously with soap can wash away the natural moisture of the skin. So make sure you take bath with lukewarm water, and apply moisturizer while your skin is damp. Use mild "fragrance-free" soaps and moisturizers with a thick consistency. Additionally, you can also invest in a humidifier to maintain the ideal level of moisture in your room. If you are suffering from dry skin patches due to medical reasons, it's best to consult a doctor to determine the proper course of treatment.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.