How to Manage Moderate-to-Severe Dry Skin

Dry skin is a common ailment that can occur due to a lack of moisture, environmental temperature or a medical condition, among other causes. If you’re living with moderate-to-severe dry skin, learn more about how this condition develops and solutions for addressing and improving its symptoms, including moisturizers that may help. 


What Is Dry Skin?

Also known as xerosis or xeroderma, dry skin generally occurs when an area of the body doesn’t receive enough moisture. You may notice patches on your skin with a rough texture, as well as flakes, fissures or scales. You might also experience an itchy sensation or a feeling of tightness. The condition may emerge seasonally — for instance, due to dry or cold weather — or result from certain habits, like excessive UV exposure, frequent bathing, taking long, hot showers or using harsh, perfumed soaps and alcohol-based skin products or detergents. 

Most of the time, dry skin feels like an annoyance that simply requires the right moisturizer. Yet, especially as you grow older or live with certain health conditions, chronic or severe dryness can mean the skin no longer functions sufficiently as a barrier against outside microorganisms and takes longer to repair itself. 

At any age, moderate-to-severe dry skin is characterized by:

  • Skin that feels or looks rough, with a bumpy, flaky, ashy or scaly appearance.
  • Itchiness and redness.
  • A feeling of tightness, especially after you bathe or get out of the pool.
  • Cracks and fissures that may bleed. 
  • Fine lines and visible wrinkling.
  • A stinging or burning sensation.
  • Patches of peeling skin or a defined rash. 

Causes of Dry Skin

Multiple factors can contribute to dry skin, including:

  • Sources of heat, including from stoves and central HVAC systems.
  • Temperature and climate, especially colder conditions with minimal humidity. 
  • Excessive bathing, including long showers, bathing multiple times per day or scrubbing frequently. 
  • Using detergents, soaps and cosmetics with alcohol and fragrance as ingredients, as these can dry out and irritate the skin. 
  • Age, because skin generally thins and loses moisture as one grows older. 
  • Certain medical conditions and treatments, including eczema, diabetes, hypothyroidism, a nutritional deficiency or psoriasis. Dry skin may also arise following chemotherapy.

Although often perceived as an inconvenience, persistent dry skin can cause bacteria to enter through cracks and fissures and affect how wounds heal, including stalling or contributing to infections. 


Treatment for Dry Skin

Moisturizing is the first line of defense when you’re dealing with dry skin. Moisturizers help preserve the skin’s barrier function and lessen any itchiness or tightness you’re feeling. It’s advisable to apply a moisturizer right after bathing and, if you plan to head outside, add sunblock with SPF 30 or higher on top. 

Not all skin moisturizers are identical, and some may even irritate your condition further. Look for solutions that use a combination of dimethicone, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, jojoba oil, lanolin, mineral oil, shea butter or petrolatum. Also look for formulas that are free of alcohol, retinols, added fragrances and alpha-hydroxy acid. 

Along with this tip:

  • Consider spacing out how frequently you bathe or shower. Use warm or cool water instead of hot, and use a fragrance-free moisturizing soap or cleanser. 
  • Take shorter showers — no more than 10 minutes long.
  • Avoid scrubbing when you clean yourself, and after, pat your skin dry with a towel rather than rubbing it.
  • Keep your skin covered as you head outdoors, including your hands, if possible.

Recommendations for Skin Moisturizers

Consider the following solutions to help replenish your skin’s moisture:



Sween Cream® Moisturizing Body Cream

Sween Cream doesn’t just alleviate irritation — it helps counteract the effects of transepidermal water loss (TEWL) with a vitamin A and D-enhanced non-occlusive formula designed for full-body use. Application works with a patient’s wound care plan and won’t interfere with bandage or tape hold. 



Aquaphor® Healing Ointment

Aquaphor has developed a multipurpose ointment for addressing a range of skin conditions, from dryness to chapped lips and minor burns. A petrolatum base enhanced with panthenol and glycerin creates a protective barrier while soothing and moisturizing the skin underneath. 



Cavilon Extra Dry Skin Cream

3M Cavilon™ Extra Dry Skin Cream

Cavilon Cream uses a lipid-based formula to deliver moisture for up to 24 hours. This non-greasy, pH-balanced solution helps calm red, rough and scaly patches. 


Remedy Intensive Skin Therapy Skin Repair Cream

Remedy Repair Cream utilizes a soothing, paraben-free formula made of 5% dimethicone and botanical ingredients like jojoba, manuka honey and natural oils to help replenish the skin’s moisture. 





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