09 August 2008

A condition where the skin is red, scaly and itchy, with flaky patches and rough spots, and blotchy patches. The skin tone is dull and pale.

Dry skin has a low level of sebum and can be prone to sensitivity. The skin has a parched look caused by its inability to retain moisture. It usually feels "tight" and uncomfortable after washing unless some type of moisturizer or skin cream is applied. Chapping and cracking are signs of extremely dry, dehydrated skin.

Ordinary dry skin (xerosis) usually isn't serious, but it can be uncomfortable and unsightly, turning plump cells into shriveled ones and creating fine lines and wrinkles. More serious dry skin conditions, such as the inherited group of disorders called ichthyosis, can sometimes be disfiguring enough to cause psychological distress.

Fortunately, most dry skin results from environmental factors that can be wholly or partially controlled. These include exposure to hot or cold weather with low humidity levels, long-term use of air conditioning or central heating, and excessive bathing.

Chronic or severe dry skin problems may require a dermatologist's evaluation. But first you can do a lot on your own to improve your skin, including using moisturizers, bathing less and avoiding harsh, drying soaps.

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