Xeroderma is a condition in which the skin contains relatively too little moisture, feels dry and sometimes a little flaky and may itch. This is often caused by lack of a protective fatty layer. The upper skin layer has microscopic cracks, loses a lot of moisture and dries out. Xeroderma is usually not serious, but can be very nasty.
There are several reasons why the skin can dry out:
- Showering too often and too hot. Hot water ensures that the fats are flushed from the skin.
- Using soap. Soap cleans the skin very well, but also dissolves the fats.
- Cold, wind and dry air. This is the reason that many people suffer from xeroderma, especially in winter.
- In some (congenital) disorders, xeroderma is more common. Examples are psoriasis, eczema and diabetes.
- Poor living habits. Unsufficient drinking, unhealthy diet and smoking can also cause xeroderma.
- Hereditary influences.
The most common signs and symptoms of xeroderma are:
- A tight, taut feeling of the skin.
- A dull or gray color.
- White flakes.
- In case of a very dry skin, fissures or red stains can arise too.
A patient often doesn’t suffer from xeroderma over the entire body but, for example, only in the face, hands, arms or legs.
The doctor can often make the diagnosis of xeroderma by watching and feeling the skin. Further examinations are normally not needed, but when in doubt, the doctor can remove a piece of tissue (biopsy) for analysis.
Many cosmetic products are freely available for the care of xeroderma. This includes an ointment, cream or lotion that contains fat and is applied to the skin. If a person is allergic to specific substances in these products, the general practitioner or dermatologist can prescribe ointments and creams that don’t contain these substances.
Xeroderma is a condition that can easily come back if the cause is not properly addressed. Most patients who adhere to the regimens and treatment described here, remain symptom-free.
There are some things that can be done to remedy xeroderma or prevent the occurrence of xeroderma. After about a week, the skin barrier is repaired:
- Don’t shower too often, too long or too hot. It is sufficient to shower once the other day with lukewarm water.
- Try to limit the use of soap. When using soap, take a skin pH-neutral soap.
- Lubricate the skin with body lotion or an oily cream after showering. This can best be done when the skin is still slightly damp.
- One can also use body lotion or cream in between.
- Don’t heat the house too hot, so that the atmosphere is not too dry.
- When the weather is cold, the skin can best be protected by dressing warmly.
- A healthy and varied diet is necessary for a healthy skin. Such a diet includes sufficient carbohydrates, proteins, fruits and vegetables and not too much fat. And drink enough water.
- Quit smoking.