What is dry skin?
Dry skin is a common skin condition characterised by insufficient oil content in the upper layers of the skin called the epidermis. Dehydration of the skin or lack of water is confused with a lack of oil in the skin.
Dry skin can affect all age groups but is more common as we age due to the reduction of oil production. In elderly individuals, the skin loses natural oils and lubricants over time. This increases their risk for dry skin.
Body areas commonly affected are the arms, hands and lower legs. Humidity or the amount of water vapour in the surrounding air greatly affects hydration of the skin. Normally, the epidermis is composed of protein and fat (lipid) portions which helps prevent dryness of the skin.
When the fatty oils are removed, it loses its natural protection and moisture more easily. Over time, the skin becomes dry, more sensitive and prone to the development of rashes and worse, skin breakdown.
Dry skin can sometimes be invisible to the naked eye, or it can be characterised by a fine, dry, powder-like appearance. If left untreated, the skin may become more irritated and can lead to the development of red rashes. Also, secondary bacterial infections such as eczema, cellulitis and skin discoloration can occur.