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How to treat dry patches of skin

The pros share effective remedies for nourishing your skin and keeping it moisturized.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 24, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
Dehydrated Skin
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 24, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Dry patches can be an uncomfortable skin issue to deal with—especially when you feel like you’ve been doing a good job regularly applying moisturizer. But the truth is, there are several causes that can lead to this skin condition, and that will determine the best way to treat it.

We’re here to help—and that starts by explaining what dry patches are and why you might be experiencing them. Then, we’ll share effective treatment options and provide practical tips to help restore moisture and nourishment to your skin. Whether you're dealing with occasional dry patches or chronic dryness, you can try these strategies to achieve a healthier, hydrated complexion.

What causes dry patches of skin? 

Dry skin is relatively common and can be caused by many different factors, including underlying skin conditions, chemical exposure, excessive use of hot water, and even dietary deficits. Here, we’ll explain a few of those potential causes.

Here at Curology, we currently focus on the diagnosis and treatment of acne, rosacea, and anti-aging concerns. We do not treat many of the conditions mentioned in this article. This article is for information purposes.

Skin conditions

If you have persistent dry patches on your skin, they may be caused by an underlying health condition such as psoriasis or atopic dermatitis. 

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by the presence of dry, thick, and scaly patches or plaques on your skin.¹ These patches are a result of an overactive immune system mistakenly attacking healthy skin cells.² This immune system malfunction triggers an inflammatory response that leads to the characteristic skin manifestations of psoriasis.

Managing psoriasis requires a comprehensive approach that addresses both the symptoms and the underlying immune system dysfunction. 

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema, is a prevalent chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by dry and itchy patches of skin.³ It’s believed to stem from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, resulting in a compromised skin barrier prone to dryness. Managing atopic dermatitis involves a multifaceted approach that focuses on moisturizing the skin, reducing inflammation, and avoiding triggers.⁴

It’s important for people who experience psoriasis or atopic dermatitis to work closely with a dermatologist or healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan that suits their skin. Trust the experts!

Chemical exposure

Aside from underlying health conditions, your dry skin may also be caused by chemical exposure. Research shows that chemical exposure, especially to harsh alkaline soaps or irritant agents found in hairdressing or housekeeping products, can contribute to dry skin and disrupt the natural balance of your skin’s protective barrier.⁵ This may lead to dryness, irritation, and compromised moisture retention.

Hot water

Hot water can cause dry skin patches due to its negative impact on the skin’s natural moisture balance. Donna McIntyre, a nurse practitioner at Curology notes, “Taking frequent, long, hot showers could lead to dry skin, so use caution! This is because hot water strips away the natural oils present on the skin, which act as a barrier to retain moisture.” 

While it’s important to maintain good hygiene, over-washing can be too drying. It’s recommended to use warm or lukewarm water instead of hot water and limit showering time to avoid drying out your skin.⁶

Dietary deficits

Dehydration can contribute to dry skin, which can be caused by factors such as excessive perspiration and inadequate water intake. When your body doesn’t receive enough water, it can affect your skin's moisture levels, leading to dryness and potential skin issues. Malnutrition is another factor that can contribute to dry skin. Deficiencies in essential nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, or iron can have an impact on the health and appearance of your skin as well. In particular, a lack of these vitamins and minerals can lead to dryness.⁷

It’s important to regularly hydrate, and maintain a balanced diet that includes foods rich in vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, and iron to prevent deficiencies and support your overall skin health.

Treating dry patches of skin

You can treat dry patches on your skin through moisturizers, a humidifier, gentle products, and prescription medicine. What you use is dependent on what’s causing your dry skin in the first place. Of course, it’s important to speak with a licensed dermatology provider for advice specific to your situation. 

Moisturize your skin

To effectively moisturize your skin, make sure you choose the right type of moisturizer. Oil-based creams are thicker and more effective when it comes to moisturizing compared to water-based lotions. Ointments, although greasier in texture, are useful for preventing transepidermal water loss. We recommend applying moisturizers to damp skin immediately after bathing. This helps to seal in moisture and decrease evaporation, maximizing the hydrating effects of the moisturizer.⁸

You should look for moisturizers that contain specific active ingredients known to improve skin texture and hydration. 

These ingredients include:⁹

Humectants: These promote water transfer from the deeper layers of your skin (dermis) to the outer layer (epidermis). Examples include glycerin and hyaluronic acid.¹⁰

Occlusives: These help to prevent water loss by creating a hydrophobic (water-repellent) layer on your skin's surface. Examples include petrolatum and stearyl alcohol.

Emollients: These help fill gaps and fissures in your skin, providing a smoother and softer appearance. Examples include petrolatum and dimethicone.

Curology offers moisturizers that contain potent humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin to help thoroughly hydrate and replenish your skin. Curology's Rich Moisturizer is also non-comedogenic, meaning it is formulated to not clog pores, making it suitable for acne-prone skin. If you have dry, sensitive skin and are in search of an effective face moisturizer, Curology's Rich Moisturizer is worth trying.

Use a humidifier 

Sometimes your skin is dry because of external factors like the air you’re exposed to. Using a humidifier can be beneficial in preventing and improving dry skin, especially during dry winter months.¹¹ By increasing the moisture levels in the air, humidifiers can help counteract the dryness that can contribute to skin dryness and irritation.

Studies have found that using a humidifier that emits water nanodroplets (mist) has been found to be particularly effective in preventing or improving dry skin, even in air-conditioned rooms. Mist humidifiers hydrate your skin, particularly the outermost layer called the stratum corneum, without excessively increasing humidity in the room. This can lead to improved skin softness and hydration.¹²

Use gentle products 

To take care of dry skin, it’s important to use gentle products, particularly when it comes to cleansers. It’s best to use mild cleansers that closely match your skin’s natural pH. Cleansers known as syndet cleansers are preferred over traditional soaps. Syndet cleansers are less irritating to your skin and have a lower pH, which has been shown to help reduce itching (pruritus) associated with dry skin. On the other hand, traditional soaps should be avoided as they tend to alkalize the skin too much, which can make dryness and itching worse.¹³

Curology offers a gentle cleanser that’s designed to be suitable for individuals with various skin concerns, including dry skin.

Prescription medicine

In cases where dry skin is accompanied by severe itchiness or dermatitis, clinicians may prescribe certain medications to alleviate symptoms and address underlying conditions. Topical corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors may be prescribed in such situations.¹⁴ 

Speak with a dermatology provider

Consult with a dermatology provider or a healthcare professional before implementing any new skincare regimen or using specific products on your dry skin. Dermatology providers have the expertise and knowledge to assess your individual skin condition, consider any underlying skin concerns or sensitivities, and provide personalized recommendations based on what caused your dry skin in the first place.

Hydrate your skin with Curology

Hydrate and nourish your skin with Curology's Moisturizer. This lightweight and buildable gel moisturizer is designed to easily work into your skincare routine. The Moisturizer features key ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which deeply hydrates and plumps your skin, and glycerin, which locks water in your skin's outer layer to maximize moisture levels.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

curology bottle
curology bottle

To use, simply apply the Moisturizer twice daily after cleansing. 

Give Curology's Moisturizer a try today and experience the benefits of its hydrating formula.

FAQs

How do you get rid of dry patches fast?

To quickly get rid of dry patches, moisturize your skin regularly, and avoid harsh chemicals and hot water. If you have any concerns, consult with a dermatology provider for a thorough evaluation and appropriate treatment plan.

What do dry skin patches look like?

Dry skin patches typically appear as rough, tight, flaky, and scaly areas on the skin. They can be accompanied by itching (pruritus) which may lead to scratching, thereby possibly increasing  the risk of skin infections.¹⁵

Do dry patches go away on their own?

Dry patches may go away on their own depending on the underlying cause. However, it often requires changes in your environment, skincare routine, or diet to rehydrate your skin. We recommend consulting with a dermatology provider to assess your condition and determine an appropriate course of action.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Nair, P.A. and Badri, T. Psoriasis. StatPearls. (2023, April 3).

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Psoriasis: Causes. (n.d.).

  3. Kolb, L. and Ferrer-Bruker, S.J. Atopic Dermatitis. StatPearls. (2022, August 8).

  4. Kolb, L. and Ferrer-Bruker, S.J. Atopic Dermatitis. StatPearls. Ibid.

  5. Gade, A., et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. (2022, November 15).

  6. Gade, A., et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  7. Gade, A., et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  8. Gade, A., et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  9. Gade, A., et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  10. Gade, A., et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  11. Ohno, H., et al. Effects of water nanodroplets on skin moisture and viscoelasticity during air-conditioning. Skin Res Technol. (November 2013).

  12. Gade, A., et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  13. Gade, A., et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  14. Gade, A., et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  15. Gade, A., et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

Donna McIntyre is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

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