Dry Cracking Skin
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Dry Cracking Skin
Cracked skin can happen when your skin barrier is compromised. Usually, it’s a symptom of dry and irritated skin, but there are many possible causes. Your feet, hands, and lips may be especially prone to cracking. However, depending on the cause, dry and cracking skin can develop in other areas, too. Most causes of skin cracking can be managed with home remedies. But if your cracked skin is severe, or if you have any complications, it’s best to see a doctor. Let’s look at the various causes of cracked skin, along with ways to find relief.
What Causes Dry cracking skin?
Dry skin, or xerosis, is the most common cause of cracked skin. In smooth and hydrated skin, natural oils prevent the skin from drying out by retaining moisture. But if your skin doesn’t have enough oil, it loses moisture. This makes your skin dry out and shrink, which can lead to cracking.
Dry skin may be caused by:
- Cold weather. During colder months, it’s common for your skin to
become dry. Climate changes, especially cold weather without a lot of
moisture in the air, can cause hands to dry out. Decreased moisture in
the air draws moisture from the skin.
- Workplace conditions. can also cause dry hands. People with jobs that require
extensive handwashing, such as nurses, doctors, or teachers, may notice
- Chemical irritants. Many products like dish soap and laundry detergent can contain harsh chemicals. These substances can damage your skin’s barrier and cause dryness.
- Hot water. The hot water from showers or washing dishes can reduce your skin’s moisture.
- Medication. Dryness may be a side effect of some drugs, like topical retinoids.
- Excess moisture. When your skin is constantly exposed to moisture, it can actually cause your skin to become irritated and dry out. This can happen to your feet after wearing sweaty socks for too long. This is because water is an irritant to the skin.
60 to 70 percent of the population experiences some degree of dry skin,” claims Dr. Grossbart. “What I’ve found is that the most common cause of dry cracking skin is suppressed or unacknowledged anger.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition that causes redness and itching. Consequently, less so dry cracking skin. It’s also known as atopic dermatitis. It can occur anywhere on the body, but it most often affects the face, hands, and inner arm folds and behind the knees.
The condition makes the skin appear very dry, which can lead to cracking. Other symptoms of eczema include:
- intense itching
- rough, scaly patches
Eczema affects approximately 35 million Americans: 1-3% of adults, and 10-20% of children respectively. Up to seventy percent of cases start in children younger than 5 years, and about sixty percent of infants who have eczema continue to have one or more symptoms in adulthood.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a disorder of immune dysfunction that makes skin cells grow too fast. Additionally, as the extra cells build up, the skin becomes scaly. Inflammation also plays a big part.
The rapid accumulation of dead skin cells can lead to dry cracking skin, along with:
- red patches
- silvery white scales
- itching, in some cases
These symptoms will develop anywhere, but they often appear on the:
- lower back
What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Cracked heels are a common symptom and complication of Diabetes. The condition can be a pre courser to diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage brought on by high blood sugar. In diabetic neuropathy, your nerves can’t properly control the skin’s moisture. This can lead to dryness and cracking being first observed on the feet and extemities.
More Symptoms Include:
- numbness in feet or hands
- pain in feet, legs, or hands
- foot calluses
- ankle weakness
People with diabetes are susceptible to skin infections. In many cases, dry cracking skin on the feet can be a result of athlete’s foot, or tinea pedi. There are more common causes of dry cracking skin below.
What is Athlete's Foot?
Another cause of dry cracking skin is athlete’s foot. This is a skin infection caused by a fungus. The infection, which usually develops between the toes or on the bottom of the feet, can cause cracked skin. Other symptoms include:
Athlete’s foot often affects people who have constantly damp feet, such as swimmers and runners. It’s also common in people with diabetes.
Around 15% to 25% of people are likely to have athlete’s foot at any one time. The infection can spread to other parts of the body and to other people.
What Causes Keratolysis Exfoliativa
Keratolysis exfoliativa causes peeling on the hands and feet. It usually affects the palms, but it can show up on the soles of your feet, too. The skin loses its natural barrier as the top layer peels off. This can lead to dry cracking skin.
More Symptoms Include:
- air-filled blisters
- dry cracking skin
Home Treatment for dry cracking Skin
There are several different ways that you can treat your cracked skin at home if the condition isn’t too severe. Depending on the cause and location of your cracked skin, you may want to try one of these self-care treatments.
Moisturizing Balm Ointment or Cream
Since dry skin can cause or worsen cracking, it’s important to keep your skin well hydrated. You can do this by frequently applying moisturizer. Try to use ointments and creams. These products tend to be more effective because they have the ability to help your skin retain moisture. You may want to consider the following products that can be especially helpful for treating dry cracking skin:
You can also try products with ingredients like:
Reapply the moisturizer as needed, including immediately after bathing. Focus on the driest parts of your body.
Mild cases of cracked skin can be treated at home. But if your cracked skin doesn’t get better after 2 weeks of treatment, or if it gets worse, be sure to see your doctor.
It’s important to seek medical attention if you have cracked skin that’s:
- filled with pus
- becoming redder or more irritated
- intensely itchy
- accompanied with a fever
In many cases, cracked skin is caused by skin that’s extremely dry, inflamed, or irritated. This happens when your skin loses so much moisture that it breaks down. Most people develop cracked skin on their feet, hands, and lips, but it can affect any part of your body. You can usually treat cracked skin with remedies like Sani-Balm, Anti-Fungal creme, and liquid bandages. But if the cracking doesn’t get better, or if you have signs of an infection, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.