Dry Hand Problems: When to See a Dermatologist

It’s not surprising to see dry skin in winter, especially on the hands. Between indoor heating, harsh weather, and hand washing (so.much.hand washing), the hands are usually the first area to show excessively dry skin. But what is “normal dry” and how does it differ from dry skin that should be addressed by a dermatologist?

The skin becomes dry when the epidermis (the skin’s top layer) undergoes changes; specifically changes that strip skin of its natural, protective oils. The epidermis usually has a healthy store of fats and oils that form a lipid layer, which acts as a natural barrier to keep moisture in and irritants out.

It is a normal part of life for the skin to lose some of those fats and oils as it ages. Other things that speed the process along include stress, harsh skin care, hormones, genetics, overuse of hot water, and more. Once the skin’s lipid layer begins degrading, whether it’s seasonal or long-term degradation, the skin loses moisture and becomes dry, ashy, uncomfortable, and perhaps even painful, red, and cracked.

Some of this dryness is natural, normal, and nearly unpreventable, but if you experience constant feelings of dryness and discomfort, or severe symptoms of dryness, it’s time to up your skin care, and perhaps see a dermatologist. Here’s a look at some common dry skin conditions which affect the hands, and what you can do about them.

Contact Dermatitis
There are many sources of contact dermatitis symptoms, but the main thing to remember is that contact dermatitis is essentially your skin reacting to external irritants. It’s that simple, and that varied. Your skin may react to fragrances, dyes, laundry detergent—you name it, the skin can react to it.

People at risk of contact dermatitis are generally people who have sensitive skin anyway, but one thing that could lead to a higher chance of contact dermatitis is the skin losing its lipid layer. Once the skin’s barrier begins to break down, something as simple as itching a scratch on your skin could leave it vulnerable to contact dermatitis.

Symptoms of contact dermatitis include redness, itching, and scaling—it looks an awful lot like eczema, but the triggers are usually different than those that trigger eczema. Most contact dermatitis will go away on its own, but it’s a good idea to use a barrier-promoting skin care product in the meantime to soothe skin and promote healing.

Eczema
Similar in appearance to contact dermatitis, eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) is more associated with food allergies, diet, and genetics. Eczema is most common in children, but those who are diagnosed as children usually carry this skin condition into adolescence and beyond.

One of the most common causes of eczema is inheriting a gene for a defective protein which causes a naturally weakened skin barrier. As you can see, dry skin conditions keep pointing back to the skin’s barrier! Those with eczema usually experience dry, cracked, itchy, and red patches that generally occur on the same spot over and over again rather than all over the skin.

Eczema may be controlled with high-quality dry skin care products, but you should visit a dermatologist for an official diagnoses before addressing your suspected eczema at home. If you suspect your child of having eczema, his or her pediatrician may be able to diagnose eczema without an official referral to a dermatologist, though it’s never a bad idea to have a dermatologist in your contacts if your child is facing skin issues at a young age.

Psoriasis
Characterized by thickened patches of scaly skin that may appear red or silvery, psoriasis is the result of an overactive immune system. Psoriasis causes skin cell turnover to speed up—rather than a month-long cycle of skin cells shedding and being replaced by new cells, those with psoriasis experience a days-long cycle which causes the cells to pile up on the surface of the skin.

Psoriasis usually develops in childhood, or sometimes middle age. It is not usually itchy or uncomfortable, and usually occurs on the knees, elbows, scalp, and trunk. Psoriasis is another skin condition which requires a dermatological diagnoses, but caring for psoriasis may be as easy as choosing an excellent barrier repair skin care product.

Seasonal Dryness
Seasonally dry skin usually occurs in fall or winter when weather is harsh and indoor heating is prevalent. These seasons are also the most common time of year for people to use water that is too hot, which strips the skin of its protective barrier.

You’ll be able to tell that your dry skin is seasonal dryness if your skin is comfortable the rest of the year, and you are able to control your dry skin by bathing in tepid water, keeping indoor heating low, and comforting skin with moisturizers.

If you are trying to figure out if your dry skin is seasonal or something worth a trip to the dermatologist, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I come into contact with anything harsh that could cause contact dermatitis?
  • Is my skin cracked, painful, or bleeding?
  • Does my skin improve with careful bathing and moisturizing?
  • Does my skin improve with physical barriers, like wearing gloves?
  • Have I been in direct contact with strong indoor heat, like using a space heater or in the car?
  • Do I experience this level of dry skin at the same time every year?

Asking yourself these questions will help you determine whether or not to visit the dermatologist, or if you just need to place an order for barrier-supporting ATOPALM skin care!

When it comes to dry hand skin care, you can’t find anything better than ATOPALM Moisturizing Hand Treatment. It’s called a hand treatment and not hand lotion because it’s so much more than lotion!

Moisturizing Hand Treatment is one of our all-time best-sellers. With its top-notch moisturizing ingredients, low price, and cult following, it’s the only barrier repair hand treatment you should be using this fall and winter—and beyond!

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