Scaly Skin: Causes, Complications, and Prevention Remedies

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Scaly Skin

Most of us have had different skin issues from time to time. Whether it’s oily skin, acne, or red spots, there seems to be a type of skin condition for every circumstance. One of the most annoying has to be scaly skin. It’s dry, slightly unconformable, somewhat unattractive, and seemingly comes out of nowhere. But what exactly is scaly skin? What causes it and is there any way of preventing it? If you’ve been wondering about these things, you’re in luck! In this article, we’re going to take a look at scaly skin causes, scaly skin treatments and everything in between.

What Does Scaly Skin Mean?

For our purposes, the definition of scaly skin is when your skin becomes dry and scale-like to the touch.  Any number of factors can cause scaly skin (which we will get to in a moment), and it can occur anywhere on the body, but it usually appears on the hands, feet, arms and legs. It tends to be rough, dry, and can occasionally be uncomfortable. Scaly skin tends to appear in small patches. But what causes it? Unfortunately, there isn’t one answer.

What Causes Scaly Skin?

Scaly skin is caused by several things, from allergic reactions to dehydration. Your skin can get scaly patches due to any of the following.

1. Environment

The dry scaly skin on your hand may just simply be the result of your skin reacting to its environment, especially a dry one. Dry climates both indoors and out can cause the skin to dry out in places and become scaly.

2. Aging

Unfortunately, with age, comes skin issues. Scaly skin can result from the natural aging process, including the thinning of skin and the loss of oil glands.

3. Bathing too frequently

It seems counterintuitive, but it’s true. Our skin produces oils to keep the skin naturally moisturized. When you bathe too frequently, soaps and shampoos can strip away those oils, leaving your skin to dry out and become scaly.

4. Psoriasis

No one is quite sure what causes psoriasis, but what is for sure is that psoriasis leaves dry patches of silvery skin scales, usually around the elbows, knees, and scalp.

5 Eczema

Another skin condition that usually occurs in early childhood and usually around the face area is eczema. It tends to make the skin scaly and red, similar to a rash.

6. Contact dermatitis

This a simple skin reaction caused by something that irritates your skin. It could be a new laundry detergent or something that literally rubs your skin the wrong way. Contact dermatitis can cause itchy scaly skin.

7. Candida fungus infection

Simply put, it’s a yeast infection for your skin. This infection can lead to cracked, scaly skin.

8. Not enough fluids

Your dry, scaly skin may just be the result of your lack of fluid intake. Staying hydrated keeps the body’s natural systems in check and the skin flush with moisture.

There are a number of other causes, but the aforementioned tend to be the most common. For example, Kawasaki disease will leave you with scaly skin, but it’s a rare blood vessel disease that mainly affects children.  Now that we know about many of the scaly skin causes, it’s time to talk about the symptoms of scaly skin and what it could mean for your health.

Scaly Skin Symptoms and Complications

Scaly skin tends to be just that: scaly, dry skin. Now depending on the cause of scaly skin, the affected area may be discolored or appear on a particular region of your body. The scaly skin may be flaky, itchy, or both. Certain sources of the scaly skin may cause it to be painful and even bleed.

Diagnosing and Treating Scaly Skin

The problem with treating scaly skin is that you have to diagnose what the problem is first, and as you could see from the above list, there are plenty of causes for scaly skin. It may take even a doctor a little bit to figure out the cause. But in the meantime, here are some tips that may make the scaly skin easier to deal with.

1. Hydrate

As we mentioned previously, scaly skin may indicate that your body is not getting enough water. Drinking plenty of liquids may help your skin issue, but even if it doesn’t, it won’t negatively affect the true reason behind your scaly skin.

2. Bathe less often

Bathing too much can deplete your skin of the oils that your body produces to keep the skin supple. You may be tempted to wash your patch of dry skin or bathe excessively to soothe the itch and re-hydrate the skin. If you over do it, you will make things worse.

3. Medications

Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor may recommend creams or oral medications. He may also recommend seeing a dermatologist if it’s a skin issue that continues to reappear.

Still, the best way to stop scaly skin is to make sure you never get it in the first place.

Preventing Scaly Skin

A number of the scaly skin causes we’ve highlighted can be avoided altogether with a few simple steps.

1. Identify possible triggers

It is important to identify what may cause scaly skin for you. This could require a trip to the doctor or dermatologist. Once your skin type is identified, it will be easier to determine how to prevent scaly skin from occurring.

2. Keep your skin moisturized

The primary cause of scaly skin tends to be a lack of moisture in your skin. Properly moisturized skin can be achieved through many methods, but the one of the best is to keep your skin hydrated with a moisturizing cream of some sort.  Cover your skin when out in the sun, or use sunscreen to block the sun from drying out your skin.

3. Maintain a healthy diet

Drink lots of water, and eat a balanced diet with lots of omega-3 fatty acids. These well help keep your skin supple and repair skin damage before it has time to turn scaly.

4. Watch how you shower and bathe

As we noted earlier, bathing too much can rob your skin of oils that keep it from drying out, but there are other steps that can also help. Try taking cooler showers as the cooler or lukewarm water is less likely to dry out your skin. Use a moisturizing shower gel or soap to help keep your skin moisturized.

Scaly Skin May Happen, but You Can Deal With It

Scaly skin can happen to anyone, whether due to age, too much time in a hot shower, or even disease. If the scaly skin causes you discomfort, remember to get it diagnosed as most scaly skin is the result of a very treatable issue. The faster you get the scaly skin diagnosed, the faster it can be treated and prevented from happening again.

Also Read:

“Scaly Skin,” Health Grades,–causes, last accessed March 14, 2017.
Jones, JC., “What’s Causing My Skin to Be Scaly?,” Healthline, January 13, 2015,, last accessed March 14, 2017.
“Candida Fungus Skin Infection,” Healthline, September 1, 2016,, last accessed March 14, 2017.
Nall, R., “What Is Contact Dermatitis?” Healthline, February 24, 2015,, last accessed March 14, 2017.
“Scaly Skin,” Embarrassing Problems,, last accessed March 14, 2017.
“Skin Conditions in the Elderly,” WebMD,, last accessed March 14, 2017.
“How to Prevent Scaly Skin,” WikiHow,, last accessed March 14, 2017.