Often dry or itchy patches of skin can be confused for eczema — also known as dermatitis — if you don’t know how to tell the two conditions apart. So, what’s the one way to tell the difference between dry skin and eczema? It all comes down to one thing — genetics. The main difference is that eczema is a genetic condition that manifests itself in many different forms with differing symptoms, while dry skin is just, well, skin that is depleted of moisture and that needs to be rehydrated.
According to the National Eczema Association, there are nine different known types of dermatitis, though the symptoms presented vary from person to person. The National Eczema Association also states that if you have eczema, your skin is usually less able to retain moisture and may have a more difficult time producing fats and oils. Generally, in mild cases, the skin is dry, scaly, red, and itchy. It’s important to figure out if you have dry skin verses eczema so that you can go about treating your symptoms the right way.
Dr. Jessica Weiser of the NY Dermatology group explains to me over email that, “There is typically a genetic predisposition to developing atopic dermatitis and is often associated with asthma and allergies. It is possible to develop eczema-like skin rashes as a result of irritation or contact allergies to a variety of chemicals and other substances.” She further notes that “Dry skin, however, is an acquired condition where moisture in the skin surface is depleted as a result of cold weather, dry indoor heat, poor hydration” et cetera. There is quite a difference between the two.” If you’re wondering whether you have eczema, look into your family history.
As far as treatment goes, the NEA recommends taking warm baths and using moisturizer to sooth eczema. However, make sure not to agitate the skin or you could worsen your condition.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, $30, ulta.com
Whether you have eczema or just plain old dry skin, a super hydrating moisturizer like this one from First Aid Beauty is a must-have. Just remember that it’s important to get a formal diagnosis if you suspect you have eczema so you can go about treating it the proper way with the help of a dermatologist.