Dry skin conditions

We learn more about dry skin conditions that are characterised by dry skin, and how to manage dry skin.

The cause of dry skin

Dry skin is a very common condition and often results in visits to dermatologists. Symptoms vary according to the severity of dryness, but skin can be tight and rough and/or prone to itching, scaling, flakiness and redness. In extreme cases, skin is pathologically dry.

The main reason for skin dryness is an impaired skin barrier function which results from:

  • A lack of lipids that help to protect skin from moisture loss.
  • A deficit of urea and natural moisturising factors (NMFs) which bind moisture into the skin.

The skin is not only the body’s largest organ but also plays a vital role in regulating body temperature and acts as a barrier protecting the body against infection.

However, dry body skin that is cracked can lose its ability to perform these functions. A good skin care routine using products formulated specifically for rough and cracked skin, like Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS, can help to restore skin to a healthy state.

The causes of rough and cracked, dry skin vary from poor skin care and environmental factors to health-related conditions, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) and diabetes.

Symptoms of dry skin

  • Extreme tightness
  • Extreme roughness
  • Skin cracks or fissures
  • Intense itching

Different types of dry skin conditions

Xerosis cutis is the medical term for abnormally dry skin. This name comes from the Greek word “xero” which means dry.

Psoriasis is a chronic, recurrent inflammatory skin disorder. The most common type is psoriasis vulgaris, characterised by slightly elevated reddish patches or papules covered with silvery white scales.

Ichthyosis vulgaris is a rare inherited skin condition that is characterised by extremely dry skin. It produces large scales in the skin that can resemble fish scales.

Keratosis pilaris is a common, harmless skin condition. It causes small, hard bumps that may make your skin feel like sandpaper. They usually appear on your upper arms, thighs, and buttocks, sometimes with redness or swelling


Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease caused by inherited and/or acquired deficiency in production of insulin by the pancreas, or by the ineffectiveness of the insulin produced. It is very common for people living with diabetes to have dry skin.

The best way to treat dry skin

In 2018, a group of renowned physicians published a medical paper on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Xerosis cutis. The report summarises the latest research findings in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of dry skin and gives doctors’ practical advice on how best to treat the condition.

The medical paper states that dry skin can, in principle, be treated effectively. The decisive factor in the effectiveness of dry skin treatment is choosing the appropriate care product.

Moisturising should involve a combination of hydrating and lipid-replenishing ingredients, formulated to restore the skin’s natural barrier function in the best possible way and prevent skin from drying out further.

Urea –  Gold standard treatment  

The paper explains that “based on the available scientific data, urea is the gold standard for the therapy of xerosis cutis.1

Urea has the advantage of being effective on two fronts; as a natural moisturising factor, it binds moisture into the outermost layers of skin. Plus, it also supports desquamation which is the natural process by which skin sheds dead skin cells. Healthy desquamation is linked to smooth skin.

The Diagnosis and Treatment of Xerosis cutis paper also explains that when urea is combined with other moisturising ingredients and lipids, the effect is even better. It states, “The combination of urea with ceramides, NMF and glycerol shows a significantly better effect than the effect of urea or the vehicle alone.2

Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS

Eucerin scientists were the first to effectively include urea in a dermo-cosmetic product, and now have more than 25 years’ experience of maximising the benefits of urea in skincare formulas. Experience that includes more than 30 clinical and dermatological studies, involving 10 000 volunteers.

The lotions and creams in the Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS range offer people with dry skin exactly what the independent expert paper recommends.

The formulas include:

  • Various concentrations of urea (ranging from 5% to 10%).
  • Other natural moisturising factors (NMFs), ceramides and gluco-glycerol.
  • The range is clinically and dermatologically proven to offer immediate and 48hour dry-skin relief.3

For more information please visit www.eucerin.co.za


  1. Augustin M et al., Diagnosis and Treatment of Xerosis Cutis. JDDG, July 2018: Suppl 4, Volume 16.
  2. Weber TM et al., J Clin Aesthet Dermatol 2012, 5:29–39.
  3. Beiersdorf. Data on file.