Severe dry skin may be caused by a number of things. Skin and medical conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and hypothyroidism can cause the skin to become extremely dry. Other factors that may cause exceptionally dry skin include a lack of humidity and the use of harsh soaps and cleansers. Showering or bathing too frequently or with water that is too hot can dry out the skin as well.
Atopic dermatitis, a form of eczema, is frequently the cause of severe dry skin. People who suffer from atopic dermatitis often have dry and scaly areas of skin on the face, neck, knees, ankles, wrists, or elbows. Sometimes those who have mild eczema believe that they simply have dry skin, but normal moisturizers may not be enough to alleviate their symptoms.
Psoriasis is a common, chronic skin disease that can cause severe dry skin. Symptoms of the condition include the red patches and scaling skin. There are many types of psoriasis, and some may cause the skin to dry badly enough to crack and bleed. Psoriasis treatments exist, but some severe cases can be disabling or disfiguring.
Some thyroid disorders can be the source of severe dry skin as well. Hypothyroidism, for example, prevents the thyroid gland from producing an adequate amount of thyroid hormones and reduces the productivity of sweat and oil glands in the skin. The decreased gland productivity can result in extremely dry and rough skin.
A lack of moisture in the air can dry out the skin. People who live in desert climates that are hot but have low humidity may have skin dryness issues. Humidity levels can drop during the winter months as well. Heating and cooling the air may exacerbate the problem because air conditioners, space heaters, central heat, and fireplaces all reduce the air’s humidity. A combination of a humid climate and cooling or heating the air quickly can cause severe dry skin.
People who shower or bathe frequently may suffer from extremely dry skin, especially if they prefer to remain in very hot water for a significant length of time. Contact with hot water can deteriorate lipid barriers in the skin, which causes the skin to dry out. Swimming in pools with high chlorine levels may have the same effect.
Detergents and soaps can break down the skin’s lipid barrier as well. Deodorant and antibacterial soaps rapidly dry out the skin, and harsh shampoos can cause severe dry skin on the scalp. Clothes detergents that are excessively strong also may aggravate and dry out the skin.