Skin Care, Skin Care Problems

Rough Dry Skin: Types, Risk Factors, and Treatments

Rough and dry Skin

What is Rough Dry Skin?

Rough Dry skin refers to skin that feels unusually bumpy, dry, thickened, or scaly compared to normal skin. There are many potential causes of rough skin, some are harmless while others may indicate an underlying skin condition.

Rough skin can occur due to normal factors like aging and dryness. As we get older, skin loses collagen and elasticity causing it to become drier and rougher over time. Dry skin from environmental factors like low humidity, harsh soaps, or long hot showers can also lead to temporary roughness.

However, abnormal roughness may be a sign of an underlying skin condition or damage. Common causes include:

  • Keratosis pilaris – genetic condition causing rough, bumpy patches often on the arms and thighs.

  • Eczema – chronic inflammatory condition leading to irritated, cracked, rough skin.

  • Psoriasis – autoimmune disease resulting in thick, scaly, inflamed patches.

  • Ichthyosis – group of genetic disorders causing abnormal skin dryness and thickness.

  • Actinic keratosis – precancerous rough spots on skin damaged by the sun.

  • Skin injuries – rough, damaged skin from burns, wounds, or trauma.

  • Infections – some bacterial, fungal, or viral skin infections can cause scaling and roughness.

If roughness persists or worsens, it’s important to see a dermatologist to determine the cause and appropriate treatment. Skin that is severely dry, inflamed, or rapidly changing warrants medical evaluation.

Types of Rough Dry Skin Conditions

Rough skin can result from various underlying conditions that affect the texture and appearance of the skin’s surface. Some of the most common types of rough skin conditions include:

Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris causes small, rough bumps on the skin, most often appearing on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, and buttocks. This harmless condition results from a buildup of keratin, a protein in the skin, hair, and nails. The bumps frequently resemble goosebumps and usually emerge in adolescence, sometimes persisting into adulthood.

Xerosis/Asteatotic Eczema

Xerosis, also known as asteatotic eczema or eczema craquelé, occurs when the skin becomes very dry, resulting in itchiness and scales or cracks. This type of rough skin often affects the lower legs. Xerosis tends to worsen in dry winter weather and can cause the skin to look like cracked porcelain.


Ichthyosis refers to a family of genetic skin disorders causing dry, thickened skin with scales. Different types of ichthyosis range in severity, some appearing mildly dry while others can result in very thick, dark scales. Often, the scales accumulate rapidly, so frequent exfoliation is necessary.

Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis results in rough, scaly patches on sun-exposed areas like the face, scalp, arms, and hands. These precancerous growths emerge due to damage from UV rays. They often appear in middle age and beyond. Actinic keratoses can develop into squamous cell carcinoma if left untreated.


Callosities are areas of thick, callused skin that form as a protective response to repeated friction, pressure, and other irritation. These rough patches often occur on hands and feet, especially pressure points like heels, balls of feet, and fingers. Corns and calluses are examples of callosities that can become painful if they thicken excessively.

Risk Factors

Rough skin can occur due to various risk factors including:

  • Genetics: Some people are simply prone to having drier, rougher skin due to genetics. This can cause conditions like keratosis pilaris which leads to rough bumps on the skin.

  • Age: As we age, our skin produces less oil and moisture which can lead to dry, rough skin. The loss of elasticity in skin as we get older also contributes.

  • Dry skin: Insufficient moisture in the skin is a key reason for rough texture. Dry skin lacks sufficient oils and hydration in the outer layer.

  • Sun exposure: UV radiation from the sun can damage collagen and elastin in the skin over time. This causes the skin to lose elasticity and moisture, becoming rough.

  • Skin conditions: Diseases like eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis directly cause inflammation, dryness and roughness in skin texture. The flaky, scaly skin in these conditions leads to roughness.

Signs and Symptoms

Rough skin can present with various signs and symptoms depending on the underlying condition. Some common signs and symptoms of rough skin include:

  • Bumpy texture – The skin may have a sandpaper-like texture and feel bumpy to the touch. This bumpiness is caused by accumulation of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin.

  • Flaking – Flakes of dead skin may be visible on the surface of the skin and can flake off, especially after scratching. This is medically known as desquamation.

  • Cracking – The rough texture can cause the skin to crack open, leading to fissures and grooves on the skin surface. This can be painful and also increases infection risk.

  • Itching – Rough skin is often itchy, especially in conditions like xerosis and ichthyosis where the skin barrier is compromised. Scratching to relieve the itch can further damage the skin.

  • Redness – Some conditions like psoriasis and eczema cause rough plaques on the skin that appear red and inflamed. The irritation leads to increased blood flow, causing redness.

Early recognition of these signs can help identify the underlying condition and guide appropriate treatment. Persistent rough skin should not be ignored as it can worsen over time. Seeking medical advice is recommended.

Rough and dry Skin


Diagnosing the cause of rough skin typically begins with a physical exam by a dermatologist. The doctor will examine the skin’s texture, noting any areas of roughness, scaling, cracking, or peeling. They may also ask about symptoms and when the changes began.

One of the main diagnostic tools is a skin biopsy. This involves numbing a small area of affected skin and using a special instrument to remove a tiny sample. The skin sample is examined under a microscope, allowing the doctor to analyze the skin layers and cell types. This helps determine if any abnormalities or disease processes are present.

Discussing a patient’s family history can provide clues in the diagnosis. Some genetic skin disorders that cause rough, scaly skin may run in families. Knowing if close relatives have experienced similar symptoms can help the dermatologist narrow down the diagnosis.

The dermatologist may also perform or order blood tests or other lab tests. This helps rule out any internal disease that could be manifesting in the skin. Thyroid disorders, diabetes, and deficiencies in vitamins A or B12 can sometimes contribute to rough, flaky skin changes.


You can take steps to help prevent rough skin conditions from developing or worsening:

Moisturize Daily – Keeping your skin hydrated is key. Use a daily moisturizer suited for your skin type. Look for moisturizers with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, or petrolatum. Apply moisturizer within a few minutes after bathing when skin is still damp. Moisturizing helps replenish skin’s natural oils.

Use Sunscreen – Sun exposure can dry out and damage skin. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours when outdoors. Seek shade when possible. Wear protective clothing like hats, long sleeves, and sunglasses.

Gentle Skin Care – Avoid harsh soaps and abrasive scrubs. Use gentle cleansers and pat skin dry. Take short, lukewarm showers and baths to avoid stripping the skin’s natural moisture barrier.

Avoid Irritants – Certain chemicals, fabrics, environments, and activities can worsen rough, irritated skin. Avoid fragranced products, wool, overheated indoor air, and prolonged contact with water. Wear gloves for activities that require frequent hand washing. Manage stress levels.

Home Treatments

There are several at-home remedies that can help soothe rough skin and reduce symptoms. These include:


Using moisturizers frequently throughout the day can help hydrate dry, rough skin. Look for moisturizers that contain ceramides, glycerin, dimethicone, petrolatum, or hyaluronic acid. Apply moisturizer within 3 minutes after bathing when skin is still damp. This helps seal in moisture.


Gently exfoliating the skin with a scrub, loofah, or dry brush can help remove dead skin cells that build up and cause a rough texture. Be sure to avoid harsh scrubs and don’t over-exfoliate sensitive skin.

Oatmeal Baths

Soaking in a warm bath with colloidal oatmeal can help soothe itchy, inflamed skin and provide relief. Make sure to pat dry instead of rubbing vigorously after an oatmeal bath.

Wet Wraps

Applying a layer of moisturizer followed by wet dressings can provide deep hydration for very dry skin. Wet wrap therapy should only be done for limited time periods to avoid maceration.

Medical Treatments

Medical treatments for rough skin conditions are available through dermatologists and other skin care specialists. These treatments aim to reduce inflammation, remove dead skin cells, improve skin texture, and prevent recurring symptoms.

Prescription Creams and Ointments

  • Topical retinoids – Prescription vitamin A creams that increase cell turnover and reduce inflammation. Brand names include Retin-A, Tazorac, and Differin.

  • Topical corticosteroids – Reduce inflammation and itching. Available in varying strengths.

  • Calcineurin inhibitors – Immunosuppressants like tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel) that reduce inflammation.

  • Antibiotics – Applied to the skin to reduce bacterial infections that can worsen skin conditions.

Light Therapy

Exposing the skin to specific wavelengths of ultraviolet light under medical supervision. Can reduce scaling and inflammation. Types include:

  • UVB phototherapy
  • Psoralen plus UVA (PUVA)

Laser Therapy

Lasers that target blood vessels in the skin can reduce redness and inflammation associated with rough skin conditions.

Chemical Peels

Chemical solutions applied to the skin remove outer layers and promote new cell growth. Improves texture and reduces scarring. Requires recovery time.

Why Choose Our Skin Care Soaps

The combination of kojic acid, salicylic acid, and aloe vera in your skincare soaps can be a good option for treating rough skin. Here’s why:

  • Kojic Acid: This ingredient helps to lighten dark spots and even skin tone. It may also help to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, a common cause of rough skin texture.
  • Salicylic Acid: This is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that exfoliates the skin. It helps to remove dead skin cells that can build up and contribute to roughness. Salicylic acid can also help to keep pores clear, which can further improve skin texture.
  • Aloe Vera: This soothing ingredient helps to hydrate and moisturize the skin. This is important for treating rough skin, as dryness can exacerbate the problem.

Here’s how your soap can help with rough skin:

  • Exfoliation: The salicylic acid will help to remove dead skin cells, leaving the skin feeling smoother.
  • Hydration: The aloe vera will help to hydrate and moisturize the skin, reducing dryness and improving texture.
  • Brightening: The kojic acid may help to even out skin tone and reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, which can contribute to a rough appearance.

Tips for using your soap for rough skin:

  • Start slowly: If you have never used these ingredients before, it is important to start slowly to avoid irritation. Use the soap once or twice a week at first, and gradually increase the frequency as your skin tolerates it.
  • Moisturize: Even though the soap contains aloe vera, it’s still a good idea to follow up with a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.
  • Patch test: Before using the soap on your entire face, do a patch test on a small area of your skin, such as your inner arm. This will help to ensure that you do not have any allergic reactions.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • Sun protection: Kojic acid can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Be sure to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day, even on cloudy days.
  • Sensitivity: If you have sensitive skin, you may want to avoid using soaps with salicylic acid. You can look for a gentler option with a lower concentration of the acid.


Rough skin conditions are typically chronic but manageable with proper care. The severity may fluctuate over time and often progresses with age as the skin loses elasticity. However, sticking to a consistent skin care routine can help keep symptoms under control.

One long-term risk associated with rough skin is an increased chance of developing skin cancer. Dry, cracked skin allows more opportunity for UV damage to penetrate into the deeper layers. Getting annual skin checks is advisable, especially if you have risk factors like fair skin, family history, excessive sun exposure, or smoking. Staying vigilant with sunscreen and protective clothing can help reduce chances of skin cancer.

While rough skin may never fully resolve, taking preventative measures and treating it early on gives you the best chance for improvement. Work closely with your dermatologist to find the right treatments and lifestyle changes to manage your symptoms. Consistency and patience is key to smoothening rough skin over time.

When to See a Doctor

See your doctor if you have severe or widespread rough skin that is unresponsive to home care, shows signs of infection, or significantly impacts your quality of life. Some signs that indicate a need for professional medical care include:

  • The affected area is very red, hot, swollen, or painful, which could indicate infection
  • You have open sores, oozing, or pus
  • Your skin is peeling off in large sheets
  • You have a fever along with skin changes
  • The rough patches are spreading quickly
  • Your skin issue is making it difficult to carry out normal daily activities
  • Over-the-counter creams and home remedies provide no relief after 1-2 weeks of consistent use

Seeking timely medical care is important to get proper diagnosis and treatment. This can help prevent complications, scarring, and progression of underlying conditions. Your doctor may prescribe stronger medications, recommend specific self-care steps, or refer you to a dermatologist for specialized skin care. With professional help, most causes of rough skin can be managed for better comfort and appearance.