Dry skin isn't serious, but it can be uncomfortable and unsightly, creating fine lines and wrinkles. Serious dry skin conditions — an inherited group of disorders called ichthyosis — can sometimes be disfiguring and upsetting. Fortunately, environmental factors that can be at least partially controlled cause most dry skin. These factors include hot or cold weather, low humidity and soaking in hot water. Chronic or severe dry skin problems may require evaluation by a doctor who specializes in skin (dermatologist). But first you can do a lot on your own to improve your skin, including using moisturizers and avoiding harsh, drying soaps.
In most cases, dry skin responds well to lifestyle measures, such as using moisturizers and avoiding long, hot showers and baths. If you have very dry and scaly skin, doctors may recommend using an over-the-counter (nonprescription) cream that contains lactic acid or lactic acid and urea. In more serious skin disease, such as atopic dermatitis, ichthyosis or psoriasis, doctors may prescribe prescription creams and ointments or other treatments in addition to home care. Sometimes dry skin leads to dermatitis, which causes red, itchy skin. In these cases, treatment may include hydrocortisone-containing lotions is helpful.