What is it?

The medical term for dry skin is xerosis. It is divisible as xero- or dry plus -osis or condition which comes from ancient Greece. Normally old and dead cells are removed easily or drop off on their own however, dry skin cells cling to the healthy cells and then accumulate.

What Does it Occur?

Any area of the skin can be affected by xerosis, although the face, hands, feet, legs, abdomen, genitals and armpits are the more vulnerable areas.

How Does it Occur?

Dry skin occurs as a result of lacking moisture as the name itself implies. There are a number of ways in which the skin can lose its moisture.


Xerosis is not always a cause for concern since it is a natural condition. The cells of the skin gradually weaken and degrade as it ages and they lose their ability to reproduce healthily. Proper exfoliation of old and dead skin is impeded by this deterioration. As a result the skin cells appear as scales or flakes.


This is not only an unavoidable cause of dry skin but it is also the most likely. The skin can be dehydrated by a dry cold and further moisture can be removed from the air and skin by the dry heat caused by central heating which increases the likelihood of xerosis.

Natural or Chemical Removal

The condition can also be contributed to by hygiene. The body’s natural oils necessary in keeping the skin moist and supple can be removed by excessive bathing especially when it is soaking in a hot bath. Moisture is obviously removed by diuretics and vomiting and diarrhea substantially dehydrate the body. The body can also be dehydrated by some ingested liquids. Some diuretics include alcohol and caffeine. These diuretics are often accompanied by smoking which also contributes to xerosis which can increase the wrinkling around the eyes and the upper lip. A role is also played by diet. A deficiency in certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, zinc or Vitamin A can result in dry skin.

Hormonal or Chemical Imbalance or Genetic Inheritance

The sweat and oils produced to help hydrate the body can be reduced when there is a lack of hormones produced by the thyroid gland in those with hypothyroidism. In some cases, genetic inheritance causes this. The body’s ability to produce sweat and oils can also be affected by some drugs or other chemicals. The severe forms of xerosis are particularly seen in those with diabetes which can lead to ulcers, infections, cracks in the skin and in extreme cases amputation.

Forms of Xerosis

For the most part dry skin is easily treatable but it can lead to more serious conditions if left untreated. Pruritus is an advanced form of xerosis which is most likely to develop with symptoms being scaling and itchy skin with some very fine web like lines. If caught quickly it is not serious in most cases but it can lead to some of the following conditions, Xerotic Eczema, Nummular Dermatitis, Ichthyosis Vulgaris, Lamellar Ichthyosis, Asteatotic Eczema and Psoriasis all of which are harder to treat.

How Can it Be Helped?

Want to moisten dry skin should be a natural instinct. This is the solution although there are better means that are less obvious.


Limiting or changing the harmful circumstances where possible is the obvious solution for the effects caused by environment. Especially if exertion is involved it is helpful to decrease exposure to the sun and you should rectify profuse perspiration by drinking plenty of water.


It is not recommended to avoid hygiene altogether but it will certainly help with a decrease in hot baths. It is easier for the skin if you take showers and use lukewarm water. Xerosis can be helped to decrease with mild soaps along with gently dabbing with a towel rather than rubbing.


Immediately after a shower or lukewarm bath is the most effective time to use moisturizing oils and lotions since this is when the skin is most absorbent. It is recommended to use skin-friendly fabrics such as cotton and silk which allow more air circulation over the skin.


Skin exposed to pollution and UV rays can be helped to repair by taking antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E. The skin cells are helped to exfoliate regularly with alpha hydroxy acids in addition to treating some forms of Ichthyosis, however irritation of the skin may result. Before using these products you should consult a doctor. In mild and early cases xerosis is clearly treatable, but treatment is more difficult with advanced circumstances and genetics. It is always a good idea to talk with your doctor if you are concerned with the condition at all.

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