Xerosis cutis is the medical term for extremely dry skin, explains Healthline. Skin requires moisture and natural oils to remain smooth and flexible; losing either causes dryness. Symptoms of xerosis include dry, itchy, scaly skin, especially on the extremities; skin with white flakiness; skin with red or pink irritation; finely cracked skin; and the sensation of tightening skin, especially after taking a bath. Xerosis may be the result of harsh bathing habits, climate, exposure to the elements, dehydration or aging.
Xerosis cutis is worse in the cold winter months when the air is dry, reports Healthline. Steps to avoid or lessen dry skin include avoiding long, hot baths or showers; using gentle skin cleansers; patting skin dry rather than rubbing with a towel; using a humidifier to increase moisture in the air; and staying well hydrated. Oil-based lotions hold in moisture better than water-based lotions, and frequent application of lotion is helpful, especially after bathing and in the winter. People with dry skin should avoid scratching excessively, as this can lead to infection.
If the skin is oozing, peeling over large areas, fails to improve or gets worse despite treatment, it may require treatment by a dermatologist, advises Healthline. The symptoms may be the result of a fungal or bacterial infection, an allergic reaction, eczema or another skin condition.