What is flaky skin?

Flaky skin occurs when the natural oil produced under the skin begins to dry up. As the skin loses both oil (sebum) and water, the skin begins to dry out and its topmost surface dies and begins to peel away, usually in very small, thin slivers called flakes. Flaky skin can be differentiated from a red rash with blisters or from scales (a raised, firm area that resembles fish scales) by its visual appearance.

Cold weather contributes to flaky skin, as a combination of cold dry air outside and forced-air heat and lack of humidity inside combine to rapidly dry out the skin. However, flaky skin can also be a response to extended exposure to heat, such as in hot baths, heated swimming pools, hot tubs, and saunas. In addition, certain drugs and chemicals can dry out the skin and cause flaking. Finally, flaky skin is also a symptom of a number of specific disorders.

Flaky skin can sometimes resolve by itself or with appropriate moisturizing skin care. However, when flaky skin is caused by disease, it is important that you receive treatment for that underlying cause, in addition to changing your skin care regimen.

Dry, flaky skin can create an area of easy entry for bacteria into the skin. Seek prompt medical care if you have flaky skin and exhibit other symptoms, including cracks or breaks in your skin; red, swollen areas that are hot and tender; infected sores inside your mouth; unexpected joint stiffness and pain; blurred vision; genital sores; frequent fevers; excessive fatigue; unexplained weight loss; or frequent diarrhea. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if an area that is hot, tender, red or swollen spreads rapidly to adjacent areas.

Seek prompt medical care if your flaky skin is persistent or causes you concern.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with flaky skin?

Flaky skin may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Conditions that frequently affect the skin may also involve other body systems.... Read more about flaky skinsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes flaky skin?

Flaky skin can have environmental causes, such as temperature extremes, as cold weather outside and forced-air heat inside combine to rapidly dry out the skin. However, flaky skin can also be a response to extended exposure to heat, such as in hot baths, heated swimming pools, hot tubs, and saunas. In addition, certain drugs and chemicals can dry out the skin and cause flaking.... Read more about flaky skincauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails


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