Dry Skin OverviewDry skin is a condition marked by scaling, itching, and cracking. It can occur for a variety of reasons. You might have naturally dry skin. But even if your skin tends to be oily, you can develop dry skin from time to time.
Normal, healthy skin is coated in a thin layer of natural lipids, or fatty substances. They keep in moisture, leaving the skin soft and supple.
What causes dry skin - or xerosis, as it's known medically? Usually, something in the environment - or something you're doing to your skin - is stripping away these fatty oils, leaving your skin unprotected. Less often, the cause is internal - a health condition, menopause or genetic predisposition is making your skin dry out.
While patches of dry, itchy skin can appear anywhere, it's most common on the arms, hands, lower legs and abdomen. Dry skin is often felt more than it's seen, but on some people it can be noticeable and embarrassing. For many black people, dry skin is a special concern, since the flakes of skin can look grey.
If untreated, dry skin can sometimes lead to dermatitis - inflammation of the skin - swelling, and infection. The good news is that just as most causes of dry skin are external, most treatments for dry skin are external. With careful dry skin care, you can usually solve the problem.