Dry Skin & Eczema

Dry skin is usually a temporary condition that is caused by a depletion in moisture and oil levels in the outer layer of t...

Some things are always confused with each other. Turtles and tortoises, nectarines and peaches, hares and rabbits; the list is endless! One condition that commonly confuses customers in the pharmacy is eczema. Come winter, when a combination of cold weather outside and central heating inside causes an outbreak of dry skin, we often experience a rush of customers coming in for products to cure their “eczema”.

If you’re wondering what the difference between dry skin and eczema is, have a read below. Alternatively, you can call into any CarePlus Pharmacy and have a chat with one of our friendly pharmacists if you have any concerns. 

What causes dry skin?

Dry skin is usually a temporary condition that is caused by a depletion in moisture and oil levels in the outer layer of the skin. Things which can cause an outbreak of dry skin include:

  • Exposure to astringents (drying) agents, such as harsh soaps and detergents
  • Age, which naturally causes a depletion of the skin’s oils
  • Very hot or very cold weather

Symptoms of dry skin include:

  • Dry, itchy, flaky skin.
  • In people with dark skin tones, the skin may appear grey or ashy in colour
  • Cracks in the skin, which may bleed if severe
  • Dry, chapped lips.

Symptoms of dry skin can usually be treated with over the counter emollients and moisturisers, and by avoiding drying agents like harsh soaps.

What is the difference between dry skin and eczema?
The two are often confused because dry skin is one of the symptoms of eczema. However, eczema differs from dry skin in that:

  • It usually develops in babies and children
  • It is found on particular areas of the body
  • It is triggered by certain substances or situations
  • It has more symptoms than dry skin alone

Have a read below to find out more about eczema.

What is eczema?

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition, which can cause the skin to become very itchy, dry, cracked, sore and red. Eczema is most common in babies and young children, and some people may grow out of it.

The severity of eczema can vary a lot from person to person. Some people with mild eczema may only have small areas of dry skin that are occasionally itchy, while in more severe cases, atopic eczema can cause widespread red, inflamed skin all over the body and itching which may induce bleeding.

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What are the symptoms of eczema?

Symptoms of eczema are patches of dry, itchy, red skin which can become cracked. Although eczema can occur on any part of the body, it is most common on:

  • Hands
  • Insides of the elbows
  • Backs of the knees
  • The face and scalp in children.

If you have patches of eczema that are covered in a yellow crust or oozing, contact your GP.

What causes eczema?

It is not known what causes people to develop eczema, but people with a parent or sibling who have eczema are more likely to suffer themselves. Eczema rashes can appear on the skin for no reason or can be triggered by contact with trigger irritants like soap or perfume, or event stressful events.

Common irritants include:

  • Soaps, detergents and household cleaners
  • Fragrances
  • Certain fabrics e.g. wool and polyester
  • Isothiazolinones an antibacterial that is found in personal care products like baby wipes
  • Metals, especially nickel

Other things which can trigger an eczema outbreak include:

  • Stress
  • Being sweaty, which can cause a prickly heat rash
  • Cold weather, which can dry the skin
  • Pollen season

What you can do to treat eczema:

Treating eczema involves a combination of avoiding triggers which cause outbreaks and keeping your skin well moisturised. To avoid outbreaks, keep a note of what triggers outbreaks and avoid things like:

  • Fragranced soap and personal hygiene products
  • Fragranced baby wipes
  • Washing detergents with perfumes and chemicals (look for specially branded sensitive skin ones)
  • Materials like wool

Try to prevent your skin from drying out by using moisturisers and emollients, and by avoiding shampoos or body washes which might dry the skin and in some cases, it may be necessary to have your doctor prescribe steroid creams, or antibacterial creams if the skin is very sore or infected.

Signs that your skin may be infected include:

  • fluid oozing from the skin
  • a yellow crust on the skin surface
  • small yellowish-white spots appearing in the eczema
  • the skin becomes swollen and sore
  • a high temperature (fever) and generally feeling unwell

Please visit your GP if you experience any of the above. 

If you have any questions about your skin, you can call into your local CarePlus Pharmacy to discuss your concerns.



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