Dry Skin and Eczema

Published: June 02, 2022
By Emily Yenser, 2023 PharmD Candidate

Dry skin is a common condition that can occur from time to time. Luckily, many over-the-counter (OTC) products are available to help your skin feel smooth and rejuvenated. Your local pharmacist can help you select the right products for your specific dry skin needs.


What is dry skin?

Dry skin can vary in location and size. It is usually a common, temporary occurrence and can affect people of all ages. Some potential causes are heat, environment, harsh soaps or detergents, aging, excessive bathing, and other skin conditions (e.g., psoriasis, eczema). Dry skin can look different for each person depending on one’s age, health status, skin tone, and sun exposure.


What are the symptoms of dry skin?

  • Skin tightness
  • Skin that feels or looks rough
  • Itchiness
  • Skin flaking, scaling, or peeling
  • Skin that looks reddish on white skin to grayish on brown skin
  • Cracks that may bleed


What is eczema?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a condition that causes the skin to become inflamed, irritated, dry, and scaly. It is triggered by a combination of genetics, environment, and stress. Eczema can begin during childhood, adolescence, or adulthood and range from mild to severe.


What are the symptoms of eczema?

  • Itchiness
  • Dry, sensitive skin
  • Inflamed, discolored skin
  • Rough, leathery, or scaly skin appearing in patches
  • Oozing or crusting
  • Swelling

There is no cure for eczema, but there are treatments that are easily accessible and without a prescription.


  • Lotion should be applied liberally and consistently throughout the day. A moisturizer or lotion that contains sunblock with an SPF of at least 30 is recommended for everyday use. Unscented lotions may be less irritating for sensitive skin.
  • Calamine lotion is a common OTC product used to help relieve mild itchiness.
  • Colloidal oatmeal can be used in baths or applied directly to the skin in the form of lotions or creams as a common method to relieve itching. OTC products containing colloidal oatmeal can be bought at your local pharmacy.
  • Topical corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone, can be used to reduce inflammation and itching. However, these products should be applied to smaller areas and are not indicated for long-term use.
  • Ointments can be used to cover an area of dry skin that will provide a layer of protection from the environment but can be greasy and stain clothes. Examples include products such as Vaseline or Aquaphor.

Bathing should be limited to 10 minutes or less. Use warm, not hot, water. Try to bathe no more than once a day, and apply moisturizer, such as lotions or ointments, directly after.

When should I see my doctor?

While most cases of dry skin and eczema can be managed with home remedies, your primary care doctor or dermatologist should be consulted if:

  • You have tried using at-home products, but your signs and symptoms persist
  • Your skin becomes inflamed or painful
  • Your condition becomes so uncomfortable that it affects your daily routine
  • You have open sores or possible infections
  • You have large areas of scaly or peeling skin



There are many OTC products available to treat dry skin and eczema. Your pharmacist can recommend what will work best for you based on your situation and preferences. If your symptoms persist or worsen, seek out help from your doctor, who can prescribe you a stronger medication to meet your needs.




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