Dry skin is very common in the aged or older adults. Xerosis cutis is the medical term for abnormally dry skin. 

What Causes Dry Skin 

As you age, retaining moisture becomes more difficult. This is because the sweat glands and sebaceous glands become less active, mostly due to changes in hormones. 

It is usually triggered by activities such as  

  • Over cleaning or over scrubbing the skin 
  • Using excessively hot water for baths or cleaning
  • Bathing too frequently 
  • Vigorous towel drying 
  • Living in areas of low humidity 
  • Dehydration or not drinking enough water 
  • Extended sun exposure 


  • The skin may become dry, itchy and scaly especially on the arms and legs 
  • White flaky skin 
  • Fine cracks on the skin 
  • Dry lips 



  • Assess the skin daily for dryness and cracks 
  • Check for skin turgor daily by gently pinching the skin and releasing it to spring back 
  • Assess daily for itchiness of the skin 

Home Care 

  • Regularly use moisturisers (oil-based creams is preferred) on the skin
  • Encourage drinking of water or fluids (more than 2litres daily). Keep records of water intake
  • Clean the aged gently and do not over scrub (soft sponge is preferred) 
  • Lukewarm water is preferred during bathing (Mix two part of cold water with one part of hot water or if water thermometer is available, temperature of water should not exceed 40 degrees Celsius) 
  • Limit the use of soap on dry areas of the skin 
  • Use gentle cleansers without dyes, fragrances or alcohol. Choose mild soaps with oil added 
  • Toweling after cleaning must be gentle – pat the skin dry instead of rubbing the body
  • Avoid scratching affected areas 
  • Avoid extended sun exposures for the aged 

Report To See The Doctor When You Observe The Following 

  • Skin doesn’t improve within a few weeks 
  • Skin is oozing 
  • Large areas of the skin are peeling 
  • Have a ring-shaped rash 
  • Skin gets much worse despite treatments 

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