8 Causes Of Flaking Dry Skin On Legs & How You Treat Them

treatment for dry skin

Dry skin, also known as xerosis, is not uncommon to develop on the legs and can be bothersome, especially if you experience itchy skin or flaking.

There are several reasons dry skin can occur on the legs. Luckily, there are many ways to treat and soothe your skin!

Symptoms of Dry Skin on the Legs

Many symptoms may occur when you have dry skin on the legs. Often, the underlying cause will impact the severity of your symptoms:

The following are common symptoms of dry skin on your legs:

  • Itching
  • Flaky skin 
  • Scaly patches 
  • Redness
  • Peeling or cracked skin
  • A sensation of tightness in the skin after swimming or bathing
  • Grey, ashy looking skin
  • Fine lines
  • Sores that ooze or bleed

What Causes Dry Skin on Legs

Dry skin occurs when the top layer of the skin is not able to keep enough water in. Our skin utilizes our body’s natural oil as a barrier to lock in moisture. Several factors can cause the skin on your legs to dry, ranging from allergens, environment, or medical conditions.

The following list reviews the most common causes of dry skin on the legs:

Allergic Dermatitis

Allergic dermatitis, also known as contact dermatitis, occurs when the skin is exposed to an allergen or substance that causes your immune system to overreact. Allergic dermatitis often causes dry, scaly, or cracked skin on the legs.

Common Causes of allergic dermatitis include:

  • Exposure to something outdoors
  • Pets
  • Harsh soaps or chemicals

Eczema

woman with eczema

Eczema is a condition that causes a red, itchy, dry patches to develop on the skin of the legs and body.   These patches can become inflamed, blistered, and crack, depending on the severity of your condition.

Approximately 31.6% of Americans suffer from some type of eczema. 

The most common type of eczema is called atopic dermatitis. “Atopic” defines a collection of immune system-related diseases, such as atopic dermatitis, asthma, or hay fever. Dermatitis is what is known as inflammation of the skin.

Atopic dermatitis is not uncommon in infants, with most people experiencing the condition before the age of 5. However, 50% of those afflicted with the condition continue to have symptoms into adulthood.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that results from the skin producing an overabundance of skin cells all at one time. This creates a build-up of skin cells that become itchy patches that can crack or bleed. Often, the patches appear whitish-silver and scaly.

While psoriasis most commonly affects the skin, it can also impact the nails or joints. 

Common triggers for Psoriasis:

The most common triggers for a psoriasis flare-up include:

  • Stress
  • Cold temperatures
  • Stress

Treatment for psoriasis targets removing the thick scales and to help prevent the skin cells from over-producing.

Ichthyosis Vulgaris

Ichthyosis Vulgaris is a skin condition that results in the skin not being able to shed dead skin cells. As a result, these dead skin cells build up in patches on the skin’s surface and take on the patterns of a fish’s scales. 

Most often found on the elbows or lower legs, ichthyosis vulgaris appears as scales that may vary in color from brown, gray, to white. The scales may also itch and flake.

Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is fairly common and harmless condition that will cause tiny bumps, typically found on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks or buttocks.   The affected areas are normally dry, rough patches of skin.

This skin condition is caused by a buildup of keratin on the skin.   Keratin is a protein that protects the skin from harmful bacteria and infections.  When there a build up of keratin, the opening of the hair follicle becomes plugged.

If you believe you have keratosis pilaris, speak with a dermatologist about treatment options.

Weather 

You may not realize that the weather plays a significant role in the moisture levels of our skin. During the colder months of the year, many people experience increased dry skin.

Products Found in Soaps and Detergents

skin care to reduce dry skin

Harsh soaps or detergents may be drying to some people. Gentle soaps and cleansers avoid stripping the natural oils from your skin, preserving the skin’s moisture.

Age

Unfortunately, as we get older, our skin produces less of the natural oils that promote moisturization, allowing the skin on our legs to become drier.

Medical Conditions that Cause Dry Skin on Legs

Several medical conditions can cause or increase dry legs on your skin, including:

  • Thyroid issues
  • Diabetes
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Lymphoma
  • HIV
  • Sjogren syndrome

What Treatment is Best for Dry Skin on the Legs

Luckily, dry skin responds well to home remedies and easy-to-make lifestyle changes. 

If you suspect that dry skin on your legs is related to one of the medical conditions listed above, or you have psoriasis or eczema, there are medications available to relieve your symptoms.

Most common medical treatments used for dry skin on the legs:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Steroid cream
  • Retinoids
  • Oral antihistamines to minimize itching, such as Benadryl or Zyrtec
  • Light therapy
  • Immune-suppressing medications

At-home Remedies

woman with flaky dry skin on leg

If you suspect that some type of substance or irritant may be the cause of your dry skin on the legs, try to avoid certain substances that are common irritants to the skin, such as:

  • Heavily fragranced soaps, detergents, or lotions
  • Using hot water to bathe or shower
  • Showering or taking a bath more than once a day
  • Cleansers that contain harsh additives that strip your skin’s natural oils
  • Use a skin brush daily before bathing

There are many moisturizer products available over-the-counter that contain ingredients that are known to help boost our skin’s moisture level. 

When shopping for a skin care product, keep an eye out for the following ingredients known to reduce dry skin:

  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Petroleum
  • Glycerin
  • Ceramides
  • Anti-oxidants
  • Salicylic acid
  • Plants oils and body butter

Keep in mind that not everyone will react to one product or ingredient the same. Finding the right product may take some trial and error, but you will want to maintain regular moisture levels.

Can I Prevent Dry Skin on Legs?

antioxidants help with dry skin

There are changes you can make to your lifestyle and diet that can help maintain moisture in the skin and prevent dryness from happening or worsening:

  • Apply a moisturizingbody lotion daily to maintain moisture levels
  • Be diligent in applying sunscreen daily to protect your skin from sun exposure 
  • Hydrate and drink plenty of fluids daily
  • Maintain a diet high in anti-oxidants
  • Use a humidifier at home if the air is dry

The Bottom Line…

While dry skin on your legs can be irritating and unsightly, there are many ways to relieve your symptoms and boost your moisture levels.

If you have made lifestyle changes to address dry skin on your legs and have found little to no relief, contact your healthcare provider or dermatologist to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

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Veinly uses medical reviewed journals, medical research, and has strict editorial review guidelines by medical professionals. You can read more about  our editorial policy and how our writers produce content for Veinly.

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