Helping Dry Skin
Normal skin owes its soft, supple texture to its water content. For skin to feel soft, pliable and "normal," its top layer must contain a minimum of ten percent water and ideally between 20 percent and 35 percent. To help protect the outer layer of skin from abnormal water loss, the skin's sebaceous glands produce an oily substance called sebum. Sebum is a complex mixture of fatty acids, sugars, waxes and other natural chemicals that form a protective barrier against water evaporation. If some internal or external factor depletes the skin's layer of sebum, the skin loses water and feels dry. If environmental factors overwhelm the ability of sebum to prevent water loss, the skin will shrivel and crack.
Dry skin is an extremely common problem for people of all ages. However, as we age, the skin loses moisture and may become dry, dull, flaky, and scaly. Excessive dryness can lead to severe itching and eczema. Dry skin can also exacerbate underlying skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.
Click below to learn more about dry skin or to complete your personal dry skin guide.
The information below is organized into the following sections
1) preventing dry skin
2) treating dry skin
3) conditions related to dry skin.
If you'd like to quit or enter more specific information about your symptoms as you move through this guide, just click the appropriate link.
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.