Jennifer Lee, M.D., of REN Dermatology, says that signs of dryness on the body may be caused by not moisturizing enough immediately after showering, before putting on your clothes. She says flaky, ashy, powdery and itchy skin are signs of atopic dermatitis, often called eczema.
Dr. Purvisha Patel, owner of and dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology & Skin Cancer Associates, says that sensitive skin can peel, itch, sting and burn as a result of a reaction to products that are too harsh for it. She advises, "People with sensitive skin may need to use medicated soaps or other products."
Other signs of dry skin are round patches of reddened skin on the body, almost in the shape of coins, which can vary in size from a dime to a quarter. Dr. Janet Prystowsky, a board-certified dermatologist in New York, says, "This is called nummular eczema and will respond slowly to over-the-counter treatment with products like Aquaphor. But for faster relief and a definitive diagnosis, consult your dermatologist."
Dr. Patel says these are all signs of rosacea, a common skin condition that generally manifests after the age of 30. Though there is no cure, Dr. Patel suggests controlling it with nonabrasive skin care products, never rubbing your face dry after washing it (pat it dry instead) and avoiding triggers like alcohol, spicy foods, heat, sun and wind exposure, and emotional stress.
Dr. James Marotta, a dual board-certified facial plastic surgeon, skin care expert and owner of Marotta Facial Plastic Surgery, says, "Dry skin is the result of the skin's underproduction of sebum. Without the assistance of an additional moisturizing agent, your skin would start cracking, itching and flaking, and become tight and red."
He adds, "If dry skin is prolonged, your face would also age before its time, growing coarser. Vitamin A serum is one of anti-aging's most celebrated ingredients. But the catch is that it makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays," which is ideal in the winter. But in the warmer months, he advises using a vitamin C-based serum with antioxidants, which he says "will fight signs of premature aging caused by the drying effect of the sun and other environmental damage."
Dull, gray skin could also be your skin's way of telling you to moisturize. Dr. Jeannette Graf, M.D., F.A.A.D., adds, "Because dry skin doesn’t reflect light, it looks dull and wrinkly, especially the hands, knees and chest area."
J. Michael Taylor, M.D., M.P.H., says, "When the skin becomes too dry, it will begin to feel stiff and will eventually become rough, scaly, and/or flaky if it is not treated properly. In some severe cases, the skin can crack and even bleed. Other signs of dry skin include chapped lips and red, itchy patches of skin." He says that although it sounds counterintuitive, overmoisturizing can actually lead to dry skin with these symptoms, as can using harsh products; soaps and cleansers can dry out the skin.
While most dry skin issues can be managed by regularly moisturizing and staying hydrated by drinking lots of water and eating water-dense foods, some severe dry skin problems may need professional treatment.
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