Xerosis or dry skin is a condition when the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis) lacks excessive moisture content . This causes the skin to lose enough moisture to retain its softness and elasticity.

Normally, skin needs 10 to 35 percent water content to maintain its soft and elastic texture. However, the skin will lose its water content under certain conditions, such as cold weather or low humidity air.

Xerosis can be experienced by anyone, but it is more prone to occur in older people. This condition can cause scaly skin, itching, cracking, and even bleeding.

Causes of Xerosis

There are several factors that can increase a person's risk of experiencing dry skin or xerosis , namely:

  • Over 40 years old
  • Live in a place with a dry, cold, or low humidity climate
  • Soaking or showering too long with hot water
  • Using chemical soaps that are too harsh
  • Using certain drugs, such as diuretics
  • Using topical corticosteroid drugs, such as hydrocortisone or fluocinolone
  • Have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, kidney disease, or Sjögren's syndrome
  • Have a history of hereditary diseases, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) or ichthyosis
  • Have a job that requires frequent hand washing, such as a hairdresser or nurse
  • Smoke

Xerosis symptoms

Complaints that arise due to dry skin depend on age, medical history, environment, and the cause of xerosis itself. These complaints include:

  • Skin feels tight, especially after showering, bathing, or swimming
  • The skin is palpable and looks rough
  • Itchy skin ( pruritus )
  • The skin looks reddish
  • Skin looks dull and pale
  • The skin experiences mild to severe flaking
  • Fine lines or cracks appear on the surface of the skin
  • Deep cracks in the skin that are prone to bleeding

These signs can occur anywhere on the body, but are most common on the arms, legs, hands, and feet. In addition, dry skin also occurs on the face a lot.

When to see a doctor

In most cases, xerosis can be treated with self-care. However, immediately check with your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Dry skin does not improve or even gets worse after using skin care products
  • Itchy skin all over the body
  • Dry skin is accompanied by redness
  • Dry skin becomes itchy and disturbs sleep
  • The skin has open sores or signs of infection such as discharge or pus
  • Scaly or peeling skin over large areas

Diagnosis of Xerosis

The doctor will ask about the patient's medical history, including the initial onset of the complaint, conditions that exacerbate xerosis , skin treatment methods that have been carried out, how long the complaint lasted, and the patient's and family's medical history.

After that, the doctor will perform a physical examination of the patient's skin. Depending on the symptoms that appear, the doctor will carry out several additional examinations, namely:

  • Allergy tests , to identify substances that cause allergic reactions
  • Blood tests, to detect possible diseases that can cause dry skin, such as diabetes or kidney disease
  • Skin biopsy, to find out the cause of dry skin by examining skin tissue samples

Xerosis treatment

Handling xerosis aims to relieve itching and pain in the skin, treat dry skin, and prevent dry skin from returning. Treatment methods will be adjusted to the patient's condition, including:


The main treatment for dry skin is to use a moisturizer . Moisturizer works to smooth and soften dry skin to prevent the appearance of cracks in the skin. These moisturizing products can be in the form of ointments, creams, lotions, and oils.


For dry skin that itches and is prone to cracking, doctors can prescribe topical steroids, such as topical betamethasone . This drug is used to reduce inflammation in the skin that can cause rashes and itching.

Xerosis Complications

Xerosis or dry skin is generally harmless. However, if you don't get the right treatment, dry skin can cause:

Atopic dermatitis (eczema)

Atopic dermatitis or eczema is prone to be experienced by people with a history of ichthyosis. Eczema can cause dry skin which has the risk of causing redness, cracking, and inflammation of the skin.

Skin infection

Skin infections can occur when bacteria or viruses that cause infection enter and penetrate the gaps in the surface of the skin due to cracks or cracks in the skin.

Lichen simplex chronicus (LSC)

LSC or neurodermatitis is a chronic skin disease caused by the habit of scratching the skin repeatedly in an itchy area. This habit can cause the skin in the itchy area to thicken.

Xerosis prevention

The risk of dry skin can be avoided by doing simple skin care to improve your lifestyle, for example by:

  • Cleanse skin using a mild, fragrance-free, moisturizing soap, gently rubbing it in
  • Limit bath time and shower using warm water, not hot water
  • Dry the skin with a soft towel
  • Use a skin moisturizer immediately after bathing
  • Reducing sun exposure, because it can evaporate skin oil and moisture
  • Wear protective clothing that can cover the skin when outdoors
  • Use sunscreen when doing outdoor activities
  • Prevent dehydration by drinking enough water
  • Managing stress that can exacerbate eczema or other skin conditions
  • Use a humidifier indoors, especially during winter
  • Do not smoke
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