Dry skin is a skin type and also a condition that can get worse during winter. But if your skin looks scaly and over-the-counter creams and moisturisers don’t seem to bring relief, then it may be a matter of concern. Scaly skin can be uncomfortable and could occur due to a number of reasons. Depending on the severity of the issue, it is always best to consult a skin expert. However, learning a bit about why you might be experiencing this problem can help you get rid of it.

Did you know your body sheds about 30,000 to 40,000 cells in a single day and replaces them with new ones? However, you can’t see them falling or flaking off. The outermost layer of your skin is a combination of dead skin cells and natural oils which helps it retain moisture. When this moisture barrier is disturbed and the layer is damaged, the skin renewal process either becomes too quick or too slow resulting in problems like flaky and scaly skin. Some of the most common external aggressors for this are ageing, harsh chemicals in skincare products, exposure to sunlight and sometimes medicines. Identifying the cause of your scaly skin is the first step towards correcting it, here are a few listed below.


1. Eczema


A red, scaly skin patch that itches a lot is the most common sign of eczema. Sometimes it can even be oozy and can affect both adults and children. Since the patch of skin is often red and itchy, it is sometimes confused with dry or sensitive skin. Among babies and children, eczema usually appears on areas like the chin and cheeks. But it can appear on any other part of the body too. While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, your skin might be sensitive to things like wool, perfumes, soap, chlorine, makeup, tight clothing, etc. There’s no known cure for eczema, but over-the-counter treatments, medicines and moisturiser can reduce flare-ups and manage the problem better.


2. Psoriasis


A raised, red patch with silver-white coating is a sign of the scaly skin problem called psoriasis. It usually occurs on areas like knees, elbows, lower back, soles of the feet and scalp. Researchers and doctors have linked it to a disrupted immune system. In this condition, the new skin cells grow faster than usual, but old skin cells remain intact instead of falling off. The new and old cells clump together on the surface of the skin and this leads to thick, itchy and scaly skin. Although the condition isn’t contagious, it can pass down genetically. Factors like obesity, stress and smoking can increase the risk of developing it. Again, there’s no treatment for the condition, but it can get triggered by an injury, physical illness and emotional stress.


3. Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis

This skin condition is associated with dandruff and appears in the form of white, oily flakes of dead skin on the scalp area or the shoulders. It is a very common skin condition and usually occurs in babies. Although the cause is still unknown, this type of scaly skin problem is linked to yeast infection. In adults, seborrheic dermatitis occurs among the age group of 30 to 60 years and men are more prone to developing it. An anti-dandruff shampoo is usually recommended to people suffering from this condition. However, it can be quite stubborn and may not go away easily, and it is best to see a dermatologist if OTC treatments are not working.


4. Actinic keratosis

Actinic keratosis

This scaly skin condition makes the texture of your skin like sandpaper. A flaky, scaly patch of skin that keeps coming and going is usually a sign of actinic keratosis. The most common areas where this condition makes an appearance are the ears, face, shoulder, neck, forearms and the back of your hand. The colour can vary, while most actinic keratosis patches are red, others can be light or dark brown, pink or even flesh-toned. If you think you have this skin condition, we recommend going to a doctor as soon as possible because if left untreated, it can turn into a type of skin cancer. It can be treated and removed with the help of a surgical procedure.


5. Ichthyosis


Another scaly skin disease is ichthyosis, it is passed on from one generation to the next. The term gets its name from the Greek word for fish because the disease manifests in patches that resemble the scales on a fish’s body. It is a lifelong condition that usually makes its first appearance during childhood. It can appear on many parts of the body including hands, legs, arms, torso, elbows and scalp. Medicines used for kidney failure, cancer and HIV can trigger this skin condition. Again, there’s no cure for ichthyosis, but regular moisturising and exfoliation can keep the problem under control. Moisturisers that contain urea, glycolic acid or lactic acid usually offer relief. There are about 20 different types of ichthyosis, but most people only develop the milder version of the disease.


6. Lichen Planus

Lichen Planus

One of the most common scaly skin conditions, lichen planus starts as a shiny, reddish-purple bump. From there on, it starts to grow and creates thick clumps of skin around the ankles and shins. At times, these bumps may even occur on your wrist, lower back and genital area. These itchy, blister-like skin conditions can sometimes even affect the inside of your mouth and nails. It is more common amongst middle-aged individuals and the cause of this problem is still up for debate. It is common amongst those who have hepatitis C. It is an inflammatory disease, and can be associated with pain and itching.


7. Hypothyroidism


Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid can affect the proper functioning of all or several parts of your body and skin is no different. The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that control your metabolism. This problem can also leave many people with skin problems like dry, rough and scaly skin. An underactive thyroid can be confirmed with the help of a few blood tests and an effective treatment plan can be formed accordingly. Other symptoms of underactive thyroid are numbness, cramps, tingling, burning, patchy hair loss, brittle nails, etc.


FAQs about scaly skin

FAQs about scaly skin

Q. What does scaly skin mean?

A. Skin that appears dry, lacks moisture, looks flaky, sometimes like the scales of a fish, is referred to as scaly skin. There could be many reasons why you might be experiencing this problem. Some skin conditions may cause it too, and it is best to consult a dermatologist.

Q. Is vaseline good for dry skin?

A. Petroleum jelly-like vaseline may relieve dryness and help retain moisture in the skin. However, it won’t offer long-lasting moisturisation. Instead, invest in a good moisturiser and body lotion to tackle the dryness. Look for ingredients like vitamin E, glycerin, coconut milk, almond milk, etc., while buying skincare products for dry skin, as they have super hydrating properties.

Q. How do you fix scaly skin?

A. The first thing you need to do while fixing scaly skin is to invest in a good moisturiser. One that is suitable for dry skin will be apt. Apart from this, avoid harsh soaps and products that contain chemicals. Avoid taking very hot showers and choose fabrics that are gentle on the skin. Following all these important steps may offer relief from scaly skin. If your condition doesn’t seem to improve, consult a dermatologist immediately.