Xerosis (Dry Skin): Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What is Xerosis?

Xerosis cutis refers to abnormally dry skin. In most cases, the condition is a temporary one. Since our skin requires moisture to stay smooth, the lack of it could cause the skin to become dry and lead to discomfort. With age, the chances of losing moisture are high. This condition is more commonly encountered during the winter months due to the increasing cold. Using proper moisturizer and lukewarm water can help deal with this issue (x).

Ashy skin generally affects people of all colors, but it shows up more easily on skin with darker pigmentation. As the name suggests, ashy skin is characterized by grey color skin areas. The skin tends to become ashier during cold weather due to the dry air. The skin area around the elbow is called olecranon skin and is also likely to be affected by this condition (x, x).

Conjunctival xerosis is usually bilateral and a symptom of chronic vitamin A deficiency. In more severe cases, the conjunctiva may seem dry, corrugated or rough. Atopy refers to the body’s tendency to develop allergic health conditions, such as eczema or asthma. Environmental factors also play a role in the development of the conditions, as do genetic factors (x).

You can fix dry skin on the face by washing your face multiple times a day in lukewarm water, using a very mild cleanser. Wearing sun protection and using moisturizer will also help in keeping your skin hydrated and soft (x).

Xerosis Symptoms

Xerosis is quite a common condition — both chronically and acutely. The development of this condition depends on a variety of factors, with the main one being the lack of water and moisture. Dry skin will usually display some of the below mentioned symptoms, but severely dry skin is most likely to experience most of these symptoms.

Rough, Dry and Tight Skin

The roughness is usually caused by the dryness. Due to the lack of moisture, skin cells die, leaving behind a thick layer of dead cells, which feels rough to touch. This also causes excessive dry hands over a period of time. Dry and rough skin can also occur on the face. Dry, ashy feet or dry, cracked palms are common signs of xerosis (x).


Itchiness is caused due to the dryness of the skin and is a reaction to the tight skin. The need to itch increases depending on the degree of skin dryness. Itchy elbow or an intense itching on skin, or painful itch, are not uncommon symptoms (x).

Flaky Skin

This happens when scales of epidermis peel off and fall. At times, it is seen as white dust (x).


Xerotic eczema is a type of eczema where the skin tends to become itchy, red, dry and, at times, cracked. This condition usually tends to develop during the winter with the lower part of the legs or underarms more affected (x).


Menopausal eczema is also pretty common. It is caused when estrogen levels reduce during menopause, leading your skin to absorb less moisture (x).

Other Skin Conditions

Skin conditions, such as keratosis pilaris, ichthyosis, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis could all potentially cause localized cases of xerosis (x).

Xerosis Symptoms

Xerosis Causes

Some of the common causes of xerosis are discussed below in detail.

  • Deficiency in NMFs
  • Lack of skin barrier lipids
  • External factors
  • Age
  • Health conditions

Deficiency in NMFs

Natural moisturizing factor is an element that our skin uses to keep itself hydrated. There are other contributors as well, such as PCA, lactate, sugars and salt. This ensures that moisture is absorbed and retained (x).

Lack of Skin Barrier Lipids

Since the layers of cells in our skin are held together by epidermal lipids, they act as a protective shield and retain moisture. Without this, the skin could become tight, dry and rough (x).

Unsuitable Cleansing

Using harsh soaps could also lead to the skin being rough. Washing the skin multiple times could remove the natural lipids, making the skin feel tight and dry (x).

External Factors

It is commonly known that dry skin is more often experienced when the weather is dry and cold. It usually occurs when the humidity is low. Sunlight is also a cause for xerosis, which could cause the skin to age prematurely (x).


Age is another common cause for xerosis or very dry skin to occur. Lipid levels generally decrease with age, which could lead to dryness of the skin (x).

Hydration and Diet

It is important to keep your body hydrated as dehydrated skin is at high risk of becoming dry and rough. Not only this, but failure to follow a proper diet could also lead to this issue due to lack of nutrients or vitamin deficiency. There is specific food for dry skin that could help deal with the issue (x).

Xerosis Treatment

The treatment for xerosis generally depends on the symptoms. It is possible to treat the condition at home, but if the case is severe, you might need to consult a dermatologist.


If you plan to treat your dry skin at home, using a nice moisturizer is the first step. It is recommended that you use an oil-based one rather than one that is water-based since the former is far more effective in retaining moisture. It would be better if the moisturizer is made using urea, lactic acid or other similar ingredients (x).


It is important to note that hydration plays a key part while dealing with xerosis. Take lukewarm showers and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Aloe and other essential oils help treat xerosis and are popularly used. Coconut oil is believed to be helpful in reducing itching (x).

Hydrocortisone for Dry Skin

Hydrocortisone lotions and creams contain a certain steroid element that helps in treating itching, swelling and irritation of the skin. They work to heal eczema, psoriasis, insect bites and stings (x).

Ichthyosis Treatment

Some home remedies for ichthyosis include soaking the area in saltwater and then gently massaging it. Using moisturizers that contain lactic acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid or urea will help as well (x).

Living with Xerosis

Ichthyosis vulgaris is a skin disorder that causes dry and scaly skin. It is known to be a chronic condition, and making lifestyle changes can have a significant effect on your health and the condition. Maintaining a proper ichthyosis vulgaris diet will also keep the condition in check. Besides changing your diet, there are other things that you can do to deal with the symptoms. Soaking in a bath and avoiding harsh soaps is the first step. Try removing the scales using a pumice stone. Moisturize your skin using an oil-based cream (x).

Fatty Fish

Eating with care will help as well. Fatty fish like mackerel, salmon and herring will assist in maintaining skin health because of omega-3 fatty acids present in it. This nutrient helps keep the skin moisturized and thick (x).

Walnuts and Sunflower Seeds

Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and can reduce inflammation in your skin. Sunflower seeds have nutrients that can boost skin health (x, x).

Broccoli and Tomatoes

Vitamin A and C, zinc and other minerals present in broccoli help keep the skin healthy. Lutein, a carotenoid, is also present in this vegetable, which prevents oxidative damage that could potentially make your skin wrinkled and dry. Tomatoes contain vitamin C and major carotenoids like lycopene, which can protect your skin against the sun and prevent wrinkling (x, x, x).

Green Tea

Green tea could protect your skin from aging and sun damage. It is also known to help increase the moisture and elasticity and deal with roughness and thickness of the skin. It is advisable not to use milk as that can reduce the potency of the antioxidants present in green tea (x, x).

Xerosis Remedies and Supplements

Xerosis can either be chronic or acute. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor might suggest taking some supplements. Some of the more effective ones are mentioned below along with their dosage.


Have a shower with lukewarm water and don’t dwindle around for long. Hot water can remove natural oil on your skin, worsening your condition. Pat gently to remove water rather than rub as it could enhance irritation. Use moisturizers that don’t contain dyes or fragrances. Choose creams that contain almond oil, avocado oil, olive oil or flaxseed oil. The skin on your fingers might peel due to vitamin deficiency, which is why it is important to have a nutritional diet (x, x).

Dehydration is a common issue, and the first signs show up on your skin. Depending on the weather and the level of activity you indulge in, you may need to drink more water to keep your body and skin hydrated and healthy. If you are sufficiently hydrated, your urine would be clear. If not, it will be dark. It is one of the first symptoms you need to check for (x).

The Bottom Line

Xerosis is a skin condition that refers to extremely dry skin. It is generally characterized by flaky skin, irritation or rough and tight skin. It can be caused due to a variety of reasons, such as other disorders like eczema or diabetes. Xerosis could also be due to menopause, or external factors, such as the weather. The best treatment for xerosis is to apply moisturizer, keep hydrated and follow a healthy diet.

In case of severe xerosis, you could always approach a doctor who would be able to guide you. Having supplements, fruits, nuts and vegetables will help deal with the condition better.

Author: BulkSupplements Staff