If you have noticed dry patches of skin, then you are not alone. This is a common issue that is often experienced by many people. There are a number of things that can lead to dry patches on the skin including psoriasis, eczema, contact dermatitis and more. A dry skin patch can sometimes feel scaly and rough in some areas, which is noticeably different compared to just having dry skin overall. You can experience dry skin patches anywhere on the body; however, they are more likely to show up on the lower arms, feet, ankles, elbows, chest, face, lower legs, knees, and eyelids.
What Causes Dry Skin Patches?
There are several possible causes of dry skin patches, many of which can be effectively treated with an over the counter medication. Some common causes include:
Contact dermatitis is one of the most common skin conditions that will cause dry patches. Check out Patient.info for more information on various skin conditions, what causes them, and how to care for your skin if you have a skin condition. Patient.info provides more information about common issues like acne, eczema, or psoriasis, through to more serious problems like skin cancer. Contact dermatitis is a common issue that happens when you come into contact with a substance that causes a reaction in your skin. It often shows up as an itchy and discoloured rash. Latex, perfumes, chemicals in cosmetic products, nickel or gold jewellery, and poison ivy are some common triggers for contact dermatitis. It is not contagious and can usually be treated easily with oral medications or steroid creams.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, can happen at any age, although it is more common to be developed in children. It causes itchy patches on the skin that can range in colour from a reddish brown to a greyish brown, which may differ depending on your skin colour. When you scratch the patches, they may crust over. Eczema can affect anywhere on the body, but it tends to be more likely to occur on the feet, hands, ankles, neck, eyelids, upper chest, wrists, knees, elbows, and face. It is not a contagious condition and there are several creams and medications that can be prescribed to manage flare-ups.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the skin. This causes the skin cells to multiply too quickly, leading to dry, scaly, and itchy dry patches. It is a chronic condition that causes flare-ups. There are several potential triggers for flare-ups including stress, infections, smoking, skin injuries, alcohol, and some medications. There are several treatments that can be used to manage the symptoms including light therapy, topical creams and lotions, and injected or oral medications, which will be recommended based on how serious the condition is.
A simple cause of a dry patch of skin may be simply that you are dehydrated. You may be at a higher risk of developing patches of dry skin if you do not get enough fluid throughout the day. To avoid dehydration and the dry patches of skin that it can cause, you should aim to drink around 8-9 cups of fluid, or two litres of fluid per day. Bear in mind that caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and some fizzy drinks can actually cause you to become more dehydrated.
Despite the name, you do not have to be an athlete to get this fungal infection. The condition normally affects the area between your toes and leads to a scaly rash that may burn, sting, or itch. Athlete’s foot is a contagious condition that you may catch from shared areas like pools and gym showers. To avoid it, wear flip-flops or shower shoes when in these areas and do not share sports or gym clothing and equipment with others. You will usually be given an antifungal cream or ointment to get rid of the infection, and you should also get a suitable treatment for your shoes since the fungus can live in them and may cause the infection to reappear as a result.
Sometimes, the air being cool and dry can strip your skin of moisture and cause dry skin patches to occur. If you suspect that you might be dealing with this issue, it is important to keep your skin moisturised and keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water. The higher humidity levels in the summer can also help to stop your skin from drying out; however, bear in mind that too much sun exposure can also lead to dry skin.
Dry, white, or light coloured patches may appear on your skin if you are deficient in certain nutrients including vitamin D, vitamin E, or calcium. Most of the time, dry skin patches that are the result of nutritional deficiencies are unlikely to be serious. However, if they persist, it is worth speaking to a health professional who will be able to recommend dietary changes or supplements.
Stress is something that most of us can’t get away from. However, too much stress can have a physical impact on your body, and for some people, this can involve developing patches of dry skin. Along with this, if you already have a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, being stressed could bring on a flare-up or worsen your symptoms. To prevent this, you may want to consider finding healthy ways to reduce your stress levels such as talking therapy, meditation, getting enough sleep, adaptogen herbal supplements like Ashwagandha, and foods known to help with stress, like dark chocolate.
If you smoke, this can also trigger patches of dry skin. Smoking can affect your skin in many ways including causing a dull skin tone and early wrinkles. Quitting smoking is the best way to avoid getting dry skin patches for this reason. Along with improvements to your skin, quitting smoking will improve your heart health, lung health, and dental health. Speak to your doctor if you want to get help and advice to quit, including prescribed nicotine replacement therapies.
How to Treat Dry Skin Patches
How you treat dry patches of skin on your body will depend on the underlying cause of your symptoms. For mild patches and rashes that are not caused by a chronic skin condition like psoriasis or eczema, you can usually get advice from your pharmacist. There are many over the counter creams, lotions, and ointments that you can use to treat dry patches of skin. For more serious or chronic conditions, you may need to be prescribed treatment by your doctor. In some cases, lifestyle factors can contribute to dry skin, and you may be able to help the problem go away on its own by staying hydrated, getting enough nutrients in your diet, reducing stress, quitting smoking, and avoiding using scented skincare products. Some dry patches will clear up by using a good moisturiser on the affected area. You should contact your doctor if you are dealing with a patch of dry skin that does not go away or becomes more severe over time. It’s also wise to get medical advice if you are experiencing other symptoms like muscle aches, fever, or fatigue.
In some cases, dry skin patches are harmless and will go away with more skin moisture. However, dry patches of skin can also be the result of an underlying health condition, so it’s good to know when to seek medical advice.