Dry Patches on Skin - Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

 Dry and itchy patch on the skin


Everyone suffers from dry skin once in a while. While cosmetic dry skin can be dealt with drugstore products, it is only when the skin starts to turn scaly and patchy, that it is a cause for worry. Dry skin patches may happen due to a variety of reasons. Allergies, psoriasis, or dermatitis — anything can cause dry patches on skin. The question is, when should you consider dry patches on skin serious enough to consult a dermatologist.

Dry skin is a common issue but it reaches its peak mostly during the winter season. The reason being, winter or cold is the season when your skin starts to lose its moisture and needs frequent replenishment and hydration. The lower level of moisture in the air and the skin being exposed to harsh and cold temperatures often lead to dry patches on skin. In most cases, minor levels of dryness can be treated with heavy moisturizers. But, what do you do in cases when the dryness is severe enough to cause fissuring and bleeding from the skin.

That’s exactly what we are here to tell you in this blog. Consider it a complete guide to dry skin patches. Here, we will talk about the causes of dry skin patches, symptoms, treatment, and more.

Dry Skin Patches - What are the Causes and Symptoms?

Many everyday reasons can be the cause of dry skin patches. Some of these are so minor that you wouldn’t even think twice before doing them. Following are some of the common causes of dry patches on skin.

  • If you are prone to washing your hands too often

  • You use a lot of hot water while taking a bath

  • Poor nutrition

  • Dehydration due to not drinking enough liquids

  • Using lotions and moisturizers that contain alcohol

  • Use of blower (fan) heaters in the room

  • Use of harsh soap/cleansers

In the first cause of washing your hands often, we would like to point out that it is different from maintaining hand hygiene which is particularly a norm during the pandemic. Given you are required to often wash your hands often, use a gentle handwash, one that does not have many chemicals but remember to moisturize your hands after.

Apart from the usual causes that we have mentioned above, certain medical conditions can also be responsible for dry skin patches. Here are a few of them.

Contact dermatitis: 

Contact dermatitis itchy and flaky skin

This is a skin condition that usually happens due to an allergic response of the skin mostly caused by exposure to allergens such as poison ivy, animal dander, cosmetics, hair dye, etc. Sometimes, even something as basic as a soap or a laundry detergent can trigger it. The good thing is, contact dermatitis usually clears up on its own. Also, you can mostly identify the possible trigger that is causing the allergy, so you know you need to avoid it the next time. Contact dermatitis usually presents as hives, dry and red scaly patches, itching on the affected areas, and leaking blisters.

Atopic dermatitis:

Dry and itchy skin in babies

Also known as atopic eczema, this is a type of dry skin patches condition that mostly affects children. It is identified by dry, scaly, and irritated skin, rashes, itchiness, and cracked skin behind the ears, on flexural areas of the body, and skin folds. Atopic dermatitis usually happens on the legs, arms, and cheeks. These kinds of dry skin patches usually happen due to genetic causes or even environmental factors.

Ichthyosis Vulgaris: 

Itchy and flaky skin

This skin condition is caused by a group of genetic disorders that lead to dry patches on skin. Mostly, these dry patches start appearing in younger age groups, children but sometimes may present late into adulthood. Ichthyosis Vulgaris is signified by dry and scaly patches, thickening of the skin, and flaking skin. A serious form of Ichthyosis Vulgaris is usually rare, and most people present with it in its mildest form. It usually happens on the legs. However, it can also affect the hands and arms.

Seborrheic dermatitis: 

 Dry and flaky skin on the scalp

As you can guess from the name, this one is connected to the sebum (sebaceous) glands. This condition occurs when the glands start overproducing oil, leading to colonization with yeasts and resulting in the formation of yellow to white colored dry skin patches with some flaking and crusting depending on severity. It can develop on the face, neck, scalp, chest, and even on the back of the body. It can also occur in infants mostly on the scalp and is known as cradle cap. Seborrheic dermatitis can be identified by thin scales that are white or yellow. It also leads to greasy patches on the skin that are red and itchy.


Dry and itchy patch on the knees

This is an autoimmune condition. In fact, as per the National Psoriasis Foundation, nearly 125 million people across the world suffer from it. It usually happens when the immune system is weak. It can also occur due to genetic transmission. The symptoms of dry skin patches in psoriasis include dry and scaly patches with typical silvery scales discoloration of the nails, and on the scalp as thick white scaly patches mimicking dandruff.  It can usually occur in the face, scalp, knees, and elbows, genitals, lower back, and lower legs, etc. It can also sometimes be associated with joint pains leading to arthritis-like features.

Athlete’s foot: 

 Itching between toes due to dry skin

This is a common condition that is marked by dry, itchy, and scaly rashes between the toes. It may also cause a severe itching and burning sensation. It may happen if you walk on contaminated floors barefoot, or keep feet wet for longer durations and contract any infection. Usually, antifungal creams and ointments can provide good relief. Remember that Athlete’s foot is extremely contagious. This means it can not only spread from one person to another, but also from one part of the body to another. Make sure you wash your hands after touching the area. Or avoid touching it altogether.

Overall, dry skin patches, whether due to allergens or the aforementioned skin condition, are defined by their trademark scaly and patchy skin that is sometimes itchy and oozy. You have to be aware of the condition is not improving via OTC ointments and medicine. That is the time to consult a doctor. Do not sleep over it for long or you may be left with a deep tissue infection where the dry skin patches start to blister or ooze and develop into ulcers leading to permanent scarring.

Dry Skin Patches - When to See the Dermatologist?

Milder dry skin patches can be treated with the help of over-the-counter ointments and medicines. But, if you are suffering from any of the aforementioned skin conditions or you notice any such symptoms, then is time to see the dermatologist. If you see your scales and itchy areas worsening by the day and if they start to leak blood, pus, or fluid, it requires immediate medical attention. You are probably not dealing with just regular dry skin patches. It is something more than that.

When you consult a dermatologist, they may ask you a series of basic questions, so make sure you have the information ready. In today’s times when social distancing is a must, an online dermatologist consultation is a good option, where you can show your symptoms via video chat and get instant prescriptions. But, the information required by the doctor remains the same. Make sure you provide the dermatologist with your correct medical history, relevant family history, if any, and any medication or drugs that you may be on, recreational or otherwise.

Note that it is important to disclose every information to your dermatologist so that their prescription does not interact with any existing drug that you may be taking for any reason. Dry skin patches can be easily treated if you consult the dermatologist at the right time, disclose the right information for correct diagnosis, and follow the prescription until you get better.


Dry Skin Patches - What is the Recommended Treatment?

Once your dry skin patches have been diagnosed and categorized into a specific type, that is when your dermatologist would prescribe you medicines. Depending on how severe the dry skin patches are, you will be given either oral medicines or ointments, or both. Most of the time, the following are the prescribed medicines:

  • Antibiotics

  • Steroids

  • Topical antiseptics

  • Antihistamines

  • Moisturizers

While these are the prescribed treatments, the dermatologist may also suggest certain home remedies, if the dry skin patches are still in the early stages and are not that severe. Please note that we do not encourage any form of self-medication. Ensure that you connect with a dermatologist and take requisite approval before going for any home remedies. The reason being, dry patches on skin make your skin even more sensitive. 

Home remedies involve ingredients in their most potent and undiluted form. Some of these ingredients have very strong acids. It is important to thus consult your dermatologist on whether or not you can go for these home remedies. Again, you have to first disclose your entire medical history so that the dermatologist can derive a correct diagnosis and decide whether or not you can follow a particular course of home remedy.

Following are some of the home remedies recommended in the case of dry skin patches:

  • Start gently exfoliating the affected area by using a loofah or scrub

  • Stop using hot water for shower and switch to lukewarm water instead, if not cold

  • Use baby oil by either pouring a few drops in your bathing water or by applying it to the damp, after-shower skin

  • Do not wipe your body/affected areas rigorously after the shower. Instead, gently tap away with the towel

  • If you feel the air around you is too dry, start using a humidifier

  • Apply cold press to the affected area

  • Apply creams that contain humectants and emollients, to the dry skin patches

The treatment for such patches is easily available. A few visits or online consultation with the dermatologist and you should be sorted. But know that dry patches on skin are common and easily preventable, if only you make a few tweaks in your stressful and busy routine.

Dry Skin Patches - What is the Prevention?

As we said, it is easy to prevent dry skin patches unless it is a severe infection due to environmental allergens or triggers or a genetic trait. Externally contracted and mild forms of dry patches can be prevented if you pay the slightest attention to your everyday routine. It involves constantly hydrating yourself, both from the inside and on the outside. How to do it? Easy. By following these steps:

  • Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every day to avoid dehydration

  • Cut down your consumption of caffeine and make sure you replenish yourself after every cup, for the hydration lost

  • Continuously sitting under the air conditioner and not drinking enough water can also lead to dry and scaly patches on the skin

  • Cut down on your smoking habits as it can trigger dry patches. It also leads to premature aging because the skin starts to dry faster and loses its suppleness and sheen

  • Believe it or not, stress is also one of the reasons for dry patches on skin. Try meditation and yoga and other such tricks to tone down your stress

  • Do not overwash your hands. Use gentle handwashes and soaps for the same so that the harsh chemicals do not lead to dry and peeling skin

  • If you are aging, the oil production in the body goes down, thus leading to more dryness. Moisturize yourself frequently

  • Consume a sufficient quantity of calcium, vitamin D, and E. If you can’t include it in your diet, make sure you take your supplements to make up for the same

  • If you wish to avoid making the condition any worse, do not touch or scratch the area

  • Use moisturizing hand washes and creams. Also, avoid those which have alcohol as an ingredient as alcohol dries the skin

  • Take a bath once a day and avoid spending more than 10 minutes per bath

  • Moisturize every day

These are some of the most common prevention tips to avoid getting dry skin patches. Still, these can help you with minor cases. You may still contract dry skin patches due to some other condition. In any case, it is always better to consult a dermatologist and then try topical treatments and home remedies rather than vice versa which may deteriorate the condition and leave permanent marks.

Dry Skin Patches - The Bottomline

Dry patches on skin can happen due to many reasons. It can either happen due to external environmental factors or something internal such as your immune system or even your genetics. Ensure that you keep yourself internally hydrated and externally moisturized, especially if you tend to get dry and scaly skin. It is a good practice otherwise as well.

Also, in case you cannot figure out why you still have dry skin patches despite taking all the precautions, we have a pocket solution for you, an online dermatologist via SkyMD. At SkyMD, you can now consult your online dermatologist at any time, anywhere, just on the tip of your fingers. And guess what, it is free. Just download the application and get your consultation via video calls, chats, or audio calls.

It’s time to be smart about skincare and skin treatment. Get started with the SkyMD app. Register now.


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