Dry skin is much more than just a purely cosmetic problem. It can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as pruritus (itchiness) and a burning sensation. Scratching at the skin results in the formation of tiny lesions which allow bacteria to penetrate. The medical terminology for dry skin is ‘xerosis cutis’, whereby the entire skin surface can be affected, or the dryness can be localized to a particular area, such as the hands or face for example.
Dry skin affects over 10 million people in Germany, especially children and older individuals. Xerosis cutis is also a cardinal symptom of many dermatological, as well as internal or neurological, diseases (1).
However, improper skincare or too frequent showering can also be a cause of dry skin. In a study of 756 patients, xerosis cutis demonstrated a prevalence of 56.6% (2). There was a statistically significant increase in occurrence in older and/or female patients.
Since dry skin can present as an acute or a chronic problem, the daily skincare routine should be adjusted to optimally handle the needs of the skin. It’s recommended to regularly apply cream to the skin, especially after showering. The creams used should be hypoallergenic and lipid-replenishing. The dryer the skin, the higher the lipid content (e.g. water-in-oil formulation) should be.
Associated symptoms, such as flaking or redness of the skin, should be taken into consideration when choosing a skincare product. Products containing ceramide offer a good foundation for skincare. One study showed that even a one-time application of a ceramide-containing moisturizing cream increased the moisture content of the skin and reduced trans-epidermal water loss in older female patients (3).
Restoration of the skin’s natural lipid barrier can be achieved by the topical application of oils. Oils form a protective layer over the skin and help prevent evaporation of moisture from the upper cell layers. A commonly used and well-tolerated example is olive oil. Even ancient cultures used olive oil for the purposes of beauty care.
Pure oils, however, can have a comedogenic effect and even lead to skin blemishes. For this reason, it’s better to use a mixture of different fats processed into a cream. These creams are made up of water-based (hydrophilic) as well as a fat-based (lipophilic) components. The texture of the creams allows for faster absorption into the skin and, depending on the composition, leaves behind a protective film on the skin’s surface.
Generally speaking, skincare should be adapted to one’s individual needs. In the case of severe flaking, for example, a preparation containing urea should be used in conjunction with a lipid-replenishing component. Ideally, one should apply cream to their skin daily. This is especially important after showering, as soaps and shower gels remove the protective lipid barrier, causing the skin to lose moisture. When applied regularly, a good skincare routine leads to a resolution of dry skin within a short period of time.
1: Augustin M1, Wilsmann-Theis D2, Körber A3, Kerscher M4, Itschert G5, Dippel M6, Staubach P7. Diagnosis and treatment of xerosis cutis – a position paper. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2019 Nov;17
2: Paul C1, Maumus-Robert S, Mazereeuw-Hautier J, Guyen CN, Saudez X, Schmitt AM., Prevalence and risk factors for xerosis in the elderly: a cross-sectional epidemiological study in primary care. Dermatology. Epub 2011 Nov 22.
3: Lueangarun S1, Tragulplaingam P1, Sugkraroek S2, Tempark T3. The 24-hr, 28-day, and 7-day post-moisturizing efficacy of ceramides 1, 3, 6-II containing moisturizing cream compared with hydrophilic cream on skin dryness and barrier disruption in senile xerosis treatment. Dermatol Ther. 2019 Nov;