Dry skin: Diagnosis and treatment
How do dermatologists diagnose dry skin?
To find out whether your dry skin is a sign of a skin disease, a dermatologist will carefully examine your skin. The doctor also will ask questions, such as when the problem began. This information will help the dermatologist make the right diagnosis and determine the best treatment. Tests may be needed if a dermatologist thinks your dry skin is due to a health problem.
How do dermatologists treat dry skin?
Your dermatologist may recommend the following:
- Moisturizer: Applying a moisturizer frequently throughout the day can help. It can make the skin softer, smoother, and less likely to crack. Body moisturizers come in a few forms — ointments, creams, lotions, and oils. Your dermatologist can tell you which is recommended for you.
For very dry skin, a moisturizer that contains urea or lactic acid may be helpful. These ingredients help the skin hold water. You can find these ingredients in both prescription moisturizers and those that you can buy without a prescription. A drawback is that these ingredients can sting if you have eczema or cracked skin.
- Medicine: When skin is extremely dry, your dermatologist may prescribe a medicine that you can apply to your skin. This may be a corticosteroid (cortisone-like) or an immune modulator (tacrolimus, pimecrolimus). These medicines tend to be quite good at relieving the itch, redness, and swelling. You also may need to use a moisturizer several times a day.
- Changes to your day: If your dry skin is caused by something that you are doing, such as immersing your hands in water all day, you may need to stop doing this for a few days. When you start up again, you may need to wear gloves or apply a special moisturizer throughout the day.
Using a moisturizer frequently throughout the day helps many people. If this does not help, you should see a dermatologist.