Itchy, Dry Skin

Why do I have itchy, dry skin?

Itchy, dry skin is an uncomfortable, irritating sensation that makes you want to scratch. The more your dry skin itches, the more you scratch. While the cause may be as simple as the clothes you are wearing or the detergent you use, itchy, dry skin can also be a symptom of a rash, skin condition or more serious illness.

Causes of Itchy, Dry Skin

Moisture Loss

As the skin loses moisture and lipids, the barrier weakens and the skin is more easily irritated, resulting in itchy, dry skin.

Harsh cleansers

Chemicals in soap can strip the natural oils from the skin, leaving behind itchy, dry skin that looks scaly.

Heat/Dry Air

Central heating, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces can be very drying to skin.


Allergies or skin conditions can cause itchy, dry skin.

Health conditions

Itchy, dry skin is associated with common medical conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and diabetes.


Certain medications can trigger a reaction that can cause itchy, dry skin. Common culprits include antibiotics, antifungals, antimalarials and pain medications.


Worrying can make you itch. Anxiety and stress can worsen atopic dermatitis and depression can intensify the itch from psoriasis and other conditions. 

Tips to soothe itchy, dry skin

  • Avoid the triggers that make you have itchy, dry skin. The source might be rough fabrics; an overly heated room; too many hot showers or exposure to a cleaning product.

  • Moisturize twice daily. Apply moisturizers in the morning and at night, or immediately after bathing to help trap moisture in the skin. Look for hydrating ingredients like glycerin, mineral oil, petrolatum and dimethicone that help maintain the skin's moisture barrier.

  • Avoid scratching whenever possible. If you can't keep from scratching it, try covering it. Keep your nails short and wear gloves at night.

  • Use a humidifier. A humidifier at night will help add moisture back into the air.