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Rough skin, , and deep cracks are some of the characteristics of crusty skin. When you have crusty skin, it means you’re losing water on your epidermis, causing toughness, thickening, and flakes. Crusty skin, which can also be dry and scaly skin, occurs when your skin barrier is compromised, making it very dry and unable to retain moisture or produce enough oil. As noted in the National Center of Biotechnology Information, dry skin can lose 75 times more water than balanced skin.

Crusty skin is often temporary, but it could turn into a lifelong condition if not treated properly. It could make a person self-conscious, especially if it occurs on the hands, face, feet, or other visible areas. Here are three reasons you get crusty skin and how you can manage the situation.

Extreme Temperatures

As mentioned in the Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery, the skin can get crusty when temperatures and humidity levels plummet. The combination of cold, dry air outside and low humidity inside contributes to .

On the other hand, crusty skin can also be a response to extended exposure to heat, such as prolonged sun exposure or cozying up to a fireplace.

Plug in a humidifier to add moisture to the air when staying indoors. When going outdoors in cold weather, try to cover as much of your skin as possible. In the same way, always protect your skin with SPF or clothing before sun exposure.

Your Shower Habits

Unfortunately, long, hot showers can cause crusty skin. As relaxing as they are, prolonged contact with hot water and exposure to hot steam can dry out your skin. When showering, try using warm water instead of hot water. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends limiting shower time to five to 10 minutes. When drying your skin, gently pat it with a towel instead of rubbing. 

To boost your skin’s moisture levels, apply lotion right after showering while your skin is still damp. It seals in moisture, preventing the skin from becoming dry. Look for a body lotion that contains moisturizing ingredients. Try Vaseline Intensive Care Deep Restore Body Lotion. It has petroleum jelly, which the National Institutes of Health says is a gentle and effective moisturizer for extremely dry skin. It can also be used as a cream for dry feet. After shower, pat dry your skin and apply this skin lotion to your elbows, knees, arms, and feet. 

Existing Skin Conditions

The risk of having crusty skin increases with age. Best Practice Advocacy Centre New Zealand notes, more than 50% of older adults have dry skin. People with skin conditions such as eczema (atopic dermatitis) are also prone to dry skin. Eczema damages the lipid barrier, making the skin more sensitive and prone to dryness. It usually affects the hands, inner elbows, ankles, and feet in teens and adults. The National Institutes of Health notes that petroleum jelly can also help with certain skin conditions like eczema, along with other treatments for dry skin.

If your crusty skin doesn’t improve and you notice that you are also experiencing more serious symptoms, such as fever, severe fatigue, and thirst, then you might want to see your dermatologist. Meanwhile, you can try making a few adjustments to your lifestyle (such as cutting back on shower time) and using moisturizers more frequently to address dryness.