Dry skin is a common condition caused by lack of moisture or low hydration levels in the top layer of the skin giving rise to flaking and dry patches. This leads to itching and scratching, roughness, redness and irritation. Constant itching may lead to friction and this in turn gives the appearance of darkened, thickened and leathery feeling skin. In general it is seen more in colder climates and the very young and the elderly are more prone to this condition.
Hormonal and metabolic conditions like hypothyroidism and diabetes mellitus, medications like Isotretinoin and anti allergics also cause this condition. Ichthyosis vulgaris is a genetic condition where the skin is so dry that a fish scale appearance is created. Atopic dermatitis also has a genetic component. Sometimes strong cleansers strip the skin surface of the protective oils leaving the skin dry and stretchy. Certain body parts like the legs and arms are more prone to dryness as they have less oil glands. Dry skin may be temporary or seasonal (winter) or it may be chronic as in skin conditions like psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, eczema.