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Other namesXerodermia, xerosis cutis,[1] dry skin
Xeroderma knuckles.jpg
The surface of the knuckles of a hand with xeroderma
SymptomsLow skin moisture, itching, scaling, skin cracking
CausesDeficiency of certain vitamins and minerals, exposure to detergents, sunburn, choline inhibitors
Risk factorsLow relative humidity of surrounding air, frequent bathing or hand washing
PreventionSkin lotions

Xeroderma, xerosis or xerosis cutis, or simply dry skin, is a skin condition characterized by excessively dry skin.[2] The medical term xeroderma is derived from the Greek words meaning dry skin.

In most cases, dry skin can safely be treated with emollients or moisturizers. Xeroderma occurs most commonly on the scalp, lower legs, arms, hands, the knuckles, the sides of the abdomen, and thighs. Symptoms most associated with xeroderma are scaling (the visible peeling of the outer skin layer), itching, and skin cracking.[3]


Effects of xeroderma on the hand

Xeroderma is a very common condition. It happens more often in the winter when the cold air outside and the hot air inside creates a low relative humidity. This causes the skin to lose moisture and it may crack and peel. Bathing or hand washing too frequently, especially if one is using harsh soaps, can contribute to xeroderma. Xeroderma can be caused by a deficiency of vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, systemic illness, severe sunburn, or some medication.[4] Xeroderma can be caused by choline inhibitors. Detergents such as washing powder and dishwashing liquid can cause xeroderma.[citation needed]


Today, many creams and lotions, commonly based on vegetable oils/butters, petroleum oils/jellies, and even lanolin[5] are widely available. As a preventive measure, such products may be rubbed onto the affected area as needed (often every other day) to prevent dry skin. The skin is then patted dry to prevent removal of natural lipids from the skin.[6] Taking a shower or washing hands with special moisturizing soaps or body washes[7] can protect skin from drying out further.


Repeated application (typically over a few days) of emollients or skin lotions/creams to the affected area will likely result in quick alleviation of xeroderma. In particular, application of highly occlusive barriers to moisture, such as petrolatum, vegetable oils/butters, and mineral oil have been shown to provide excellent results. Many individuals find specific commercial skin creams and lotions (often comprising oils, butters, and or waxes emulsified in water) quite effective (although individual preferences and results vary among the wide array of commercially available creams). Lanolin, a natural mixture of lipids derived from sheep's wool, helps replace natural lipids in human skin and has been used since ancient times (and in modern medicine) as among the most powerful treatments for xeroderma. However, lanolin is a common allergen. Also, pure lanolin is a thick waxy substance which, for many individuals, proves difficult and inconvenient for general use on dry skin (especially over large areas of the body). As a result, many formulated lanolin products, having a softer consistency than pure lanolin, are available.[citation needed]


Many skin creams include common allergens such as fragrances, parabens, and lanolin.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rapini, Ronald P.; Bolognia, Jean L.; Jorizzo, Joseph L. (2007). Dermatology: 2-Volume Set. St. Louis: Mosby. ISBN 978-1-4160-2999-1.[page needed]
  2. ^ "Dry Skin (Xeroderma) - Skin Disorders". Merck Manuals Consumer Version. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  3. ^ Proksch, Ehrhardt; Berardesca, Enzo; Misery, Laurent; Engblom, Johan; Bouwstra, Joke (19 June 2019). "Dry skin management: practical approach in light of latest research on skin structure and function". Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 31 (7): 716–722. doi:10.1080/09546634.2019.1607024. ISSN 0954-6634. PMID 30998081. S2CID 121354592.
  4. ^ Entry on medterms.com
  5. ^ Overview of Lanolin Basics at www.lanicare.com/lanolin.html
  6. ^ Lee, Doctor. "Dry Skin Prevention". Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  7. ^ "Dry Skin Prevention - soaps and body washes". GuidingBeauty. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  8. ^ Zirwas MJ, Stechschulte SA (2008). "Moisturizer allergy: diagnosis and management". The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 1 (4): 38–44. PMC 3016930. PMID 21212847.

External links[edit]

External resources


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