How to Tell if Your Dry Skin is Serious


It’s winter and your skin is itchy, red, rough, and just uncomfortable. There’s nothing incredibly unusual about that. But, for some people, dry skin is a much bigger issue. Forget simply needing more humidity in the room or moisturizer. If you have what is known as the winter itch or winter xerosis, there is something you can do about it. Let’s break this down.

When you expose your skin to sun damage, you scrub too hard and too often, or the drying effects of indoor heat become too much, what you end up with is cracking, itching, flaky, rough skin. It can even feel like it’s burning.

Skin moisturizers have ingredients to attract moisture (duh)—including ceramides, sorbitol, HA, and glycerin—and also ingredients to seal that moisture in like mineral oil, lanolin, or petroleum jelly, for example. Even if you are using all of the above and you should be following these tips to prevent winter dry skin you may have a few things going against you, particularly if you are older.

At least 75% of people over age 64 have dry skin. It’s just what happens after years under the sun and the reduced production of oils that comes with age. Being postmenopausal doesn’t help either. That reduction in hormones means a drop in oil and sweat gland function as well. The areas most affected by this are typically hands, middle of the upper back, legs, and arms.

If you do not take proper care of your dry skin, you can be in for some serious dermatological conditions. Some of these complications include:

Secondary Bacterial Infection

If you notice redness, swelling, and pus, call your dermatologist. You may need an antibiotic.

Chronic Eczema

Red, itchy, inflamed patches of skin—most commonly found on the face, behind the knees, on the hands and feet, or inside your elbows—can be extremely uncomfortable. Avoiding hot, prolonged baths and staying moisturized with thick creams and lotions will help to alleviate your eczema symptoms.

Bleeding from Fissures

If you have a skin crack that extends into the deeper layers of skin, you could get an infection. Treating it quickly and diligently can avoid this greater issue.

There’s also a chance your severe dry skin can be a sign of a serious medical condition. These conditions could include kidney or liver disease, psoriasis, lymphoma, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and atopic dermatitis.

To talk to a board-certified dermatologist about your dry winter skin, just request a consultation with The Derm Group online or call us at (973) 571-2121.