Dry Skin Patches : Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Dry Skin Patches

Do you wonder why you have dry patches on skin that make you feel uncomfortable? We have got your answer.

If you experience a flaky, dry scalp or small, dry patches on skin from time to time then you are not alone–many people experience it. Some experience these dry spots on isolated parts of the body while others may develop them all over the body.

These dry patches can be caused for several reasons including contact dermatitis and eczema.

Let’s dig a little deeper into its causes.

The Difference Between Dry Skin And Dry Skin Patches

Dry skin medically known as Xerosis (pronounced zi-ro-sis) or Xeroderma is a common skin condition. Xerosis may sound scary but don’t worry this skin condition is not as dangerous as it sounds. 

It causes the skin to become rough, flaky, and scaly. It may also cause irritation and itching in some cases. Dry skin is usually caused by lack of moisture in the skin.

Dry skin and dry skin patches are the same. Both may be caused for the same reason, the only difference between them is that dry skin may be experienced on the whole body at the same time while dry skin patches appear on certain parts of the body in the form of patches, spots, and rashes.

What Do Dry Skin Patches Look Like? 

If you are wondering what dry skin patches look like then take a look at these common symptoms of dry skin:

  • Redness of skin
  • Scaly skin
  • Change in the color of the affected area
  • Inflammation 
  • Itching
  • Cracking 

The dry patches on the skin may look different on everyone. In some people, it may cause redness of the skin, usually in people with lighter skin tones, while in darker skin tones it may cause the skin to become brown or purple.

Sometimes the patches may appear in a certain part of the body depending on their cause, in other cases they may appear all over the body. The dry spots can be small, large, circular, or irregular shaped. It all depends on what is causing them.

What Causes Patches Of Dry Skin

The outermost layer of our skin contains natural oils called sebum that are responsible for keeping the skin moist but when this layer is damaged its ability to retain moisture is lost which results in dry skin.

Some common factors that disrupt the skin barrier and lead to dry skin are

  • Aging
  • Excessive washing
  • Dehydration
  • Poor nutrition
  • Exposure to dry air
  • Reaction to skincare products

Dry skin caused by these common factors can be managed by keeping the skin clean, and moisturized and avoiding the triggers.

Skin Conditions That Can Cause Dry Patches

Certain skin conditions can cause dry itchy patches on the skin. The patches caused by these conditions need proper care and treatment.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is also commonly known as eczema. It is a chronic skin condition that causes itchy dry patches on the skin. They can appear anywhere on the body but are most common on the legs, arms, and face. 

It is believed to be caused by skin barrier dysfunction. Our skin has a topmost layer that protects it from irritants and keeps it moist. But when there is an issue with this barrier it is unable to work properly. Thus, leading to itchy, irritated, dry patches on the skin.

Some common symptoms that can help you identify atopic dermatitis are:

  • Irritated skin
  • Scaly skin
  • Red rash (it may appear reddish in lighter skin tones, and purple or brown in darker skin tones)
  • Itching
  • Raised bumps
  • Cracked, bleeding skin (in severe cases)

Anyone can develop eczema, but it is more common in children under the age of 5, some children may outgrow it but the rest may experience eczema flare-ups throughout their life. 

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that appears when skin comes in contact with something. And as a reaction, the skin becomes itchy and irritated. It is divided into further two categories.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis is when the skin comes in contact with certain allergens such as pollen, poison ivy, poison oak, nickel, or pet dander. The body’s immune system develops an allergic reaction and as a result red, dry itchy patches on skin appear.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis is when the skin becomes irritated by a certain chemical present in soaps, body wash, perfumes, detergents, and lotions. The irritation caused by them can appear as rashes on the skin.

Common symptoms of contact dermatitis are

  • Red, dry patches on skin
  • Intense itching
  • Burning sensation
  • Blisters
  • Scaling skin

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis commonly referred to as “cradle cap” in babies is a common skin condition. Seborrheic dermatitis in adults is considered a severe form of dandruff. 

It is believed to be caused by overactive sebaceous glands. When the excess oil produced by the glands mixes up with Malassezia yeast an irritating byproduct is produced and boom–crusty, scaly patches appear.

It is more common on the scalp but can also appear on other parts of the body such as eyebrows, neck, ears, and armpit folds. Depending on the location, it can appear as weeping moist red skin or as yellow or brownish crusty scales. 

Some prominent symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis are

  • Redness
  • Flaking and scaly skin
  • Crusty scales
  • Irritation 

When seborrheic dermatitis appears in babies it is also referred to as infantile seborrheic dermatitis the scaling and crusting are usually thicker in babies.


Psoriasis appears as silvery-white scales that appear in patches on different areas of the body. It is a chronic skin condition, which is very common. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, almost 125 million people are affected by this worldwide. 

It is believed to be caused by an autoimmune disorder. The cells on the skin work on a continuous life cycle, after some time they die and new ones take their place. But when this cycle is disturbed the new ones form before the dead cells can shed. These dead cells accumulate on the skin in the form of dry, scaly patches. 

It can appear in different parts of the body including the scalp, hands, face, knees, and sole of feet. Common signs of psoriasis include

  • Dry patchy rashes
  • Rashes may appear purple or gray in darker skin tones and pink or red in lighter skin tones
  • Scaly skin
  • Itching
  • Burning and soreness

Athlete’s Foot

Not only people that are avid players of sports develop an athlete’s foot. Anyone can experience it. It is a fungal infection that causes scaly, dry patches on the skin. 

It usually appears on the foot or is more common in between the toes. This skin condition is contagious and can spread in warm, damp areas such as the gym. 

It may look similar to eczema, to learn about the difference between an athlete’s foot and eczema read our blog. Some visible symptoms of athlete’s foot are:

  • Red rashes
  • Scaly skin
  • Dry skin
  • Itching
  • Stinging or burning sensation.

Causes Of Dry Skin Patches In Babies

Apart from the common skin conditions mentioned above, some other conditions can cause dry skin patches in babies.

Diaper Dermatitis

Diaper dermatitis better known as diaper rash, causes red, irritated dry skin patches in babies. It is very common in babies under 1 year of age. 

Diaper rash usually appears on the folds of the thighs and near the genitals. This type of rash in babies can be caused for several reasons such as

  • Irritation by urine and stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Sensitive skin
  • Allergic reaction to chemicals in diaper wipes
  • Infrequent diaper changes.

Diaper rash can be very irritating for the baby, and if proper care and treatment is not provided on time it may lead to blisters and bleeding of skin.


Ichthyosis is a skin condition that causes itchy, rough, dry skin. The main reason for this skin condition is genetics. Which causes the skin cells to build up and accumulate in one place forming thick dry skin patches that may appear like fish scales. 

This skin condition may be present at the time of birth or may develop in their childhood. Many children experience a mild form of Ichthyosis that may appear on the face, arms, legs, palms, and soles.

Do you treat dry skin patches?

To treat dry skin patches it is important to first understand the factors that might be causing them. If these patches on the skin are caused by a non-specific disease then it can be managed by following a proper skin care routine that includes:


Cleaning the affected area is essential in treating any skin condition. It is the first and foremost step. To treat dry skin patches on your body cleanse the area with a gentle cleanser. 

Cleansing helps in removing excess dead skin cells and any other bacteria that can worsen the condition or cause infection. 

  • Take a bath or shower at least twice or three times a week. If you are taking a bath daily then it is a good choice but don’t take it more than once a day. Water can strip away oil from your skin and make it dry.
  • Remember to always use a mild, gentle cleanser or body wash to clean the area. A cleanser that contains harsh chemicals can worsen dry skin patches. Instead, go for a cleanser that contains ingredients such as Oatmeal Extract, Licorice Root Extract, Aloe Vera, Provitamin B5, and Hyaluronic Acid –these natural ingredients can help soothe dry skin and redness.


Moisturizing plays a vital role in getting rid of dry skin patches. 

  • Moisturize your skin twice a day. And if you feel that your skin is becoming dry more often, then you can increase the use of moisturizer. 
  • Always moisturize your hands and face after washing, and the whole body after taking a bath. When the skin is a little damp after washing it absorbs more moisture and helps relieve dry skin much faster.

We advise using a moisturizer that does not contain fragrances or harsh chemicals that can worsen dryness or trigger other skin conditions. 

Reiterating–If you have sensitive skin or are feeling irritation from those moisturizers then the best moisturizer for dry skin is the one that is fragrance-free, dye-free,  paraben-free, and contains an emollient like petroleum jelly or mineral oil. Consider one that contains redness soothing licorice root extract as an ingredient. There are other ingredients that can also lead to irritation like lanolin. If you don’t like a greasy feeling avoid the ingredient dimethicone.   Sticking with these tips can help soothe the itchy, dry skin associated with different skin conditions such as eczema and contact dermatitis. 

OTC Creams

There are certain OTC (Over The Counter) creams, ointments and oral preparations available such as topical steroids, antifungals, and antihistamines that can help you relieve dry skin patches. These creams are specially formulated to combat itching, irritation, dryness, and rashes related to different skin conditions like eczema, and athlete’s foot. 

When to Seek Medical Advice for Severe Dry Skin Patches

Dry skin patches can be easily managed at home by following a proper skincare routine but in some cases, it is advised to consult a doctor to get the best treatment plan.

  • If dry skin does not improve with proper cleansing and moisturizing.
  • If the dry skin patches become worse.
  • You are experiencing blisters, that may be oozing or bleeding.
  • If you are having a fever or feeling ill.
  • If you suspect any signs of skin infection.
  • If you are unable to diagnose which skin condition is causing dry patches on skin.


Dry skin patches can appear anywhere on the body, these can be experienced by anyone no matter the age. Many things can contribute to dry patches of skin such as aging, dehydration, poor nutrition, and exposure to dry air, they can also be caused by different skin conditions like eczema, seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap in babies), psoriasis, athlete’s foot, contact dermatitis and diaper rash in babies.

The good news is dry skin patches can easily be soothed with the help of a proper skincare routine that includes regular washing of the skin and moisturizing. If the condition does not get better with this then consult a doctor they may suggest some OTC creams or prescribe medications to combat dry skin.


Follow Me
Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

More about Dr. Eddie.
Follow Me
Latest posts by Dr. Eddie Valenzuela (see all)

How to treat dry skin patches?

The best way to get rid of dry skin patches on your body is by regularly moisturizing your skin. Moisturize at least twice a day. You can moisturize more than that if your skin becomes dry more often.

Will dry skin patches go away?

With a proper skincare routine that includes cleansing and regularly moisturizing the skin one can help manage dry skin patches. If the patches are caused due to a particular skin condition, then managing and treating that skin condition will help relieve dry patches.

What are the dry flaky patches on my baby’s skin?

There are several common skin conditions that can cause dry flaky patches of skin in babies such as
Contact dermatitis
Infantile seborrheic dermatitis

Can dry skin patches appear on the face?

Yes, dry skin patches can develop on the face as well. The skin on the face is very sensitive and needs extra care and attention. If for any reason the skin barrier on the skin on face is disturbed it loses its moisture and becomes dry.

Suggested Products

Buy today

Also Available at

available at walmart
available at amazon

Recent Posts

Your Cart