Most people will, at some point in their lives, experience dry skin. Whether it's a particularly cold winter or a new scented soap, overexposure to sunlight, or the natural process of aging - there are many reasons your skin might lose its dewy glow. Thankfully, this is usually nothing that a bit of extra moisturizer or hydration can't solve.
For up to 20% of children and 3% of adults , dry skin could also be a tell-tale sign of a longer-term skin condition: eczema. In such cases, a more tailored and ongoing treatment plan may be required.
That's why throughout this post, we'll be exploring everything you need to know about:
The difference between dry skin and eczema symptoms
The causes of dry skin versus eczema flares
How best to treat eczema
Tips for preventing eczema flare ups and dry skin
Keep reading to learn whether your sensitive skin could indicate a broader inflammatory skin condition and how best to soothe dry skin patches today.
Getting To Know Eczema
Eczema is a chronic skin condition caused by genetic and environmental factors.
Similarly to dry skin, it can be characterized by flares of red, itchy, scaly skin that flakes like dandruff when scratched. That said, it can also be weepy
While both conditions may look somewhat similar at first glance, several critical distinctions between their symptoms are important to recognize.
Symptoms: Eczema Vs. Dry Skin
Eczema is characterized by a long-term recurrence pattern, with symptoms flaring and then settling, flaring then settling. Bouts of dry skin, however, tend to be situational and short-term or concurrent with aging.
Severe eczema is often also linked to significant issues across daily life, including constant itching, cracked or bleeding skin, interrupted sleep, mental health challenges, and the increased risk of skin infections.
Types of Eczema
When deciphering the difference between eczema and dry skin, it is helpful to note there are various forms of eczema, with symptoms presenting differently for each patient. Many of these skin diseases will appear different from your typical 'dry skin.' Sometimes, white spots may even appear.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common skin condition under the 'eczema' umbrella.
While this chronic condition mainly develops in early childhood, its symptoms tend to be long-lasting. It is characterized by recurring flares of dry, cracked, and itchy skin rashes.
On darker skin tones, atopic eczema patches may appear brown, grey, or purplish, while on lighter skin tones, this form of eczema appears red.
Otherwise known as allergic contact dermatitis, this variety of eczema occurs when the body comes into contact with an allergen or other environmental triggers that cause a reaction in the skin. This may include certain chemicals, metals, pollen, pet dander, harsh soaps, fabrics, or food allergies.
In addition to causing an itchy rash, this allergic reaction may also be accompanied by a burning sensation across the patches of skin.
This form of eczema develops specifically in people with weak circulation in their lower legs.
When the veins in the leg are too weak to pump blood back up the body to the heart adequately, the veins leak fluid. This triggers swelling, redness, and itchiness in the lower legs. Stasis dermatitis is often also accompanied by varicose veins.
Linked to dandruff, this variety of dermatitis causes yellow or grey itchy patches across the scalp, ears, and face. It is triggered by an excess of yeast on the skin.
Characteristically, nummular eczema can be identified by coin-shaped patches of itchy skin that are discolored and oozing fluids.
Here, the affected skin is unusually sore, dry, and sensitive.
This type of eczema is distinguishable by tiny blisters that develop across the palms of your hand or feet. These blisters are typically very itchy and painful. They may erupt with fluid when scratched.
Causes: Eczema Vs. Dry Skin
Eczema - An Inflammatory Skin Condition
While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, this skin disease is believed to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental triggers:
For people with eczema, immune system dysfunction causes abnormal responses to bacterial infections, environmental allergens, or viruses. This creates skin inflammation as the body's barrier attacks itself, resulting in scaly patches of itchy, red rash.
Symptoms of eczema may also be exasperated by skin barrier dysfunction, which undermines the skin's ability to retain liquid or moisture. This, in turn, leads to even drier, itchier skin, prompting the vicious itch-scratch cycle that perpetuates eczema flare-ups.
Why Do I Have Dry Skin If It Isn't Eczema?
Aside from these chronic skin conditions, many commonplace factors might cause your skin to dry.
For example, your skin might lose too much natural oils and moisture during cold or hot weather, particularly if you're blasting the indoor heater or air conditioning.
Did you know that lengthy, hot showers can dehydrate your skin, leaving you feeling dry and thirsty?
The chemicals and fragrances in new soap or laundry detergent might be the culprit for your scaly skin outbreak, stripping your body of its natural oils.
Smoking can also narrow your blood vessels, leading to duller, dry skin.
Over time, the skin's ability to naturally manufacture its essential oils declines, meaning that your dry skin might concur with growing older.
As you've seen, although the similarities between your dry skin and an eczema flare-up might seem uncanny, the reasons behind these itchy patches are various.
Suppose you're struggling to discern the difference for yourself. In that case, it is worth getting in touch with your healthcare provider or primary care doctor to help solve the mystery and to decide on the best treatment options going forwards.
Treating Eczema Vs. Dry Skin
Due to the overlap in key symptoms, the treatment options for eczema and dry skin may look similar.
No matter the cause of dry, itchy skin, moisturizing will always be essential.
For a safe solution, why not try the Super Dry Soother, which heals explicitly rough, cracked, and chapped skin and has been made with scaly, dry eczema and psoriasis in mind. This calming balm is made with certified safe herbs, suitable for even the most sensitive skin, including infants.
By combining coconut oil, shea butter, and sunflower oil in soap, this product offers a fatty cleanser and moisturizer with a lather that will leave your skin feeling soothed, soft and supple.
Treating Severe Eczema
In the case of eczema flares, additional treatments may sometimes be needed.
Conventionally, skin inflammations may be treated with light therapy, wherein a machine emits a controlled level of UV light onto the skin, helping to reduce inflammation and itching in a targeted way.
Topical medications may also be prescribed over the counter to help soothe affected areas. These may include topical corticosteroids to help reduce swelling and redness, breaking the itch scratch cycle.
Natural Treatment Options
Rather than seeking out prescribed medications, however, many people may prefer natural solutions or home remedies to soothe their eczema.
This traditional technique involves generously lathering your eczema-prone skin with moisturizer and then wrapping the affected area with damp gauze.
The Remedywear™ (TENCEL + Zinc) Sleeves are a great hypoallergenic option for wet wrapping. They have been made from eco-friendly TENCEL embedded with zinc oxide, known for its anti-inflammatory properties to provide long-lasting comfort day or night.
On top, you apply a dry fabric later to help lock in moisture. Wet wrapping offers eczema patients intense relief from severe symptoms.
Pour half a cup of the bath soak into your tub to soothe your itchy, red, cracked skin with wholesome ingredients and enjoy immediate, calming results.
Target Your Eczema and Dry Skin Today
Whether it's dry skin that's bothering you or a chronic eczema condition, know that with the correct approach, your symptoms are treatable and manageable.
Use these tips to help you restore your healthy skin today.
Kapur S, Watson W, Carr S. Atopic dermatitis. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2018;14(Suppl 2):52. doi:10.1186/s13223-018-0281-6