Is that dry skin really something more serious?

Symptoms of dry skin, eczema, contact dermatitis, and psoriasis can overlap.


Image: © Sasha_Suzi/Thinkstock

It's easy to overlook dry skin during the winter, when indoor heating and dry air pull moisture from the skin. But sometimes it's tough to tell if dry skin is a consequence of the season or a sign of a serious condition. "I see a fair number of people who come in with psoriasis or eczema and had just assumed it was dry skin," says Dr. Jason Frangos, a dermatologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Why does skin dry out?

It's not just winter conditions that lead to dry skin; it's also a change in our skin's top layer, or epidermis. This layer is normally thick with naturally occurring fats and oils that act as a barrier to help retain moisture and prevent irritants from entering the skin.

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