Dry skin results from the breakdown of your stratum corneum (the outermost layer of your epidermis). Your stratum corneum’s major function is that of a barrier, protecting the inner layers of your skin from the harsh external environment. The “cornified” cells of your stratum corneum normally are bound together by lipid (fatty) substances that almost act as a “glue” to help form this very important protective barrier. If there is loss of these essential skin lipids, the integrity of your stratum corneum is compromised and a loss of moisture results. Over time, your skin may crack and split and external irritants (like chemicals) can penetrate into the deeper layers of your skin and trigger various skin reactions.
Dry skin is characterized by redness, scales (squames), a stinging sensation and perhaps a tight feeling in your skin. Some people are genetically predisposed to having dry skin and this condition can be associated with various forms of atopic dermatoses (allergic type skin inflammation). Dry skin can also be the result of environmental exposures (like extreme temperatures, and windy or dry conditions). Other aggravating factors for dry skin include the use of harsh soaps and cleansers, other topical irritating substances, certain metabolic imbalances and various medications.