Dry Skin (Xerosis)

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Xerosis cutis is abnormally dry skin. People complain of rough, scaling, flaking skin that is sometimes associated with itch. There may even be cracks in the skin which can bleed if very severe. If it affects your lips, they can also be cracked, peeling and painful.


Aside from appearing flaking and dry, xerosis cutis can lead to a form of eczema called asteototic eczema. When this occurs a red, scaling, very itchy rash develops, most commonly on the lower legs. When dry skin is all that is present, people may feel nothing associated, and just be bothered by its appearance.


Anyone can get dry skin. Especially as we age, our skin naturally becomes thinner and drier. Most people by their 40s may notice a change in the level of natural moisture in their skin.

If you live in decreased humidity, that can also cause drier skin. Especially in winter months, with heaters on, climate can significantly affect the dryness of your skin.

Certain occupations and exposures can lead to drier skin, such as people who have to wash hands frequently: dishwashers, medical professionals, hair stylists, etc.

Certain medications and underlying diseases (such as eczema) can cause dry skin.

OTC Treatment Options



cerave cleanser

CeraVe Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

  • Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Cleansing Gel


Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream Extra Dry Skin

  • CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
  • Simple Hydrating Gel Cream
  • Aveeno Positively Radiant Overnight Hydrating Facial Moisturizer



CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

Cetaphil Cream

Aveeno Eczema Cream

Vanicream Moisturizing Cream

Aquaphor Spray

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

CeraVe Healing Ointment




CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream

Cetaphil Intensive Moisturizing Cream

Neutrogena Norweigan Formula Hand Cream

Aveeno Skin Relief Hand Cream Intense Moisture

Eucerin Advanced Repair Hand Cream


AM & PM: Immediately after washing with a cleanser, dry off. Before you are completely dry, use a copious amount of a moisturizer right away. This is the best opportunity to trap some hydration into your skin. If topical medications are being used, apply the moisturizer after the medication. Sunscreen & cosmetics should be applied after the moisturizer.

OTC Tips

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! It’s the best way to address dry skin. Heavier moisturizers are creams or ointments. Lotions actually contain more water, and may not always be sufficient to treat very dry skin. In general, ointments and heavy creams provide superior moisture but are not always well tolerated due to a more greasy feel. For this reason, some individuals choose to use a lighter moisturizing cream or lotion in the AM and an ointment at bedtime.

It’s important to protect excessively dry skin from irritants. Avoid excessively long & hot showers which may strip your skin of moisture. Use of hand sanitizers and excessive hand washing can make things worse. Wearing cotton-lined gloves at bedtime after the application of hand moisturizers may provide extra hydration.

Because dry skin may be caused by other underlying medical issues, it’s important to seek medical care if there is associated inflammation, itch or excessive dry skin that persists despite the above measures.


If following the above recommendations does not improve your condition, see a dermatologist for further evaluation and treatment, particularly if symptoms are severe or persist.

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Skin Conditions We Cover