Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Dry Skin


  • The skin is dry and rough

Call or Return If

  • Dry skin lasts more than 2 weeks on treatment
  • You think your child needs to be seen.
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic


  • Dry skin feels rough or bumpy
  • Dry skin often is itchy
  • Dry skin can be on one part of the body or all over.
  • Dry, rough, bumpy skin on the back of upper arms is called keratosis pilaris. It's made worse by soaps.
  • Dry pale spots on the face are called pityriasis alba. These are more prevalent in the winter time. They are also made worse by soaps.

Causes of Dry Skin

  • Mainly caused by too much bathing and soap (called soap dermatitis).
  • Soap removes the skin's natural protective oils. Once they are gone, the skin can't hold moisture.
  • Dry climates make it worse, as does winter weather (called winter itch).
  • Genetics also plays a role in dry skin.
  • Dry skin is less common in teenagers than younger children. This is because the oil glands are more active.
  • Eczema. Children with eczema have very dry itchy skin.

Prevention of Dry Skin

  • Don't use soaps or bubble bath.
  • Wash the hands with warm water. Use soap only if the hands are very dirty. Also, use soap for anything that won't come off with water.
  • Don't use swimming pools or hot tubs. Reason: Pool chemicals are very drying.
  • Run a humidifier in the winter if the air is dry.
  • During cold weather, wear gloves outside. This helps prevent drying of the skin.
  • Drink lots of fluids.

After Care Advice

  • Dry skin is a common condition, especially in the winter time.
  • Mainly caused by too much bathing and soap (soap dermatitis).
  • Soap removes the skin's natural protective oils. Once they are gone, the skin can't hold moisture.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Soap and Bathing:
  • Young children with dry skin should avoid all soaps. Soaps take the natural protective oils out of the skin. Bubble bath does the most damage.
  • For young children, the skin can be cleansed with warm water alone. Keep bathing to 10 minutes or less.
  • Most young children only need to bathe twice a week.
  • Teenagers can get by with using soap only for the armpits, genitals, and feet. Also, use a mild soap (such as Dove).
  • Do not use any soap on itchy areas or rashes.
Moisturizing Cream:
  • Buy a large bottle of moisturizing cream. Avoid those with fragrances.
  • Put the cream on any dry or itchy area 3 times per day.
  • After warm water baths or showers, trap the moisture in the skin. Do this by putting on the cream everywhere after bathing. Use the cream within 3 minutes of completing the bath.
  • During the winter, apply the cream every day to prevent dry skin.
Steroid Cream:
  • For very itchy spots, use 1% hydrocortisone cream. No prescription is needed.
  • Use up to 3 times per day as needed until the itching is better.
  • Eventually, the moisturizing cream will be all that you need for treating dry skin.
  • If your winters are dry, protect your child's skin from the constant drying effect.
  • Do this by running a room humidifier full time.
What to Expect:
  • Itching will usually go away after using this treatment for 2 days.
  • Within 1 week the skin should feel soft and stay that way with treatment.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2021 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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