Do I have eczema or very dry skin?

The skin flakes, it is dry and itchy. What is this, do I have eczema or very dry skin? There are a number of clues to distinguish between these two skin conditions.

Self diagnostic clues

The major difference between dry skin and eczema is the presence of inflammation (inflammation). In eczema, the skin barrier does not work properly, resulting in moisture loss from the skin and disturbances in the top layer of skin (epidermis). If your skin is red, itchy, and flaky, it’s probably more than just dry skin and you probably have eczema.

Another important clue between eczema and dry skin is that eczema gets worse if not treated properly. It can then lead to other complaints such as tears, cracks, skin thickening and intense itching. People with eczema are also more prone to skin infections due to a disrupted skin barrier.

If areas such as elbow creases, knee hollows are also affected. So red, scaly and itchy then chances are it is eczema.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a non-contagious inflammatory skin reaction. Eczema is caused by a deficiency of, among other things, filaggrin protein, which is located in the top layer of skin. A deficiency of filaggrin is caused by a genetic mutation that occurs in 8 to 10 percent of the population. The skin of these people does not retain moisture in the skin well, which leads to eczema. When the skin lacks this protein, its ability to protect against environmental influences is reduced. It can be triggered by cold weather, infections, dry air, irritating skin products, and stress.

Untreated dry skin can become itchy and lead to asteatotic dermatitis.

What can you do?

The good news is that there are things you can do. The care regimen for dry skin and eczema is similar because in both cases the goal is to restore and protect your skin barrier to prevent water loss from the skin.

The skin needs a water content between 10-15% to keep it supple and intact. Below 10% water content, dry skin is visible in the form of flakiness. And when the top layer of skin, stratum corneum, dries out further, it leads to flakes, but also to roughness and even small cracks.

Moisturizer categories

There are many moisturizers on the market and can actually be divided into 3 different categories, each with its own function. The most famous and commonly prescribed by a dermatologist is petroleum jelly and it acts as an occlusive. Other variants are vaseline lanette, vaseline cetomacrogol and all these products have the function of closing the epidermis (occlusive barrier) so that moisture, also known as transepidermal water loss (TEWL), is limited. Disadvantages of an occlusive barrier is that it feels heavy and shiny. It doesn’t feel good, especially when it’s hot.

Humectants are substances that attract water, which improves the hydration of the epidermis, improves skin cell cohesion and reduces flaking. Typical humectants are hyaluronic acid, glycerin, sorbitol, urea, honey and alpha hydroxy acids (AHA).

Emollients, are mainly lipids and oils and fill the space between the skin cells in the upper layers of the skin. Compare it with cement between the bricks of a skin. Emollentia also have a light barrier function to prevent water loss in the skin, leaving a supple, hydrated and softer skin. Well-known examples of this are ceramide, squalene, canola, olive, palm and coconut oil.

More about dry skin

Moisturizer-Occlusive-Humectant-Emollient Dry Skin Eczema
Different Moisturizers: Occlusive, Humectant, Emollient

Iconic Elements Natural Moisturizer Creamprovides a triple action to effectively hydrate and nourish:

Ceramides and Squalane: This cream contains ceramides and squalane. Ceramides are natural lipids in the skin that help strengthen the skin barrier and retain moisture. Squalane is a light, non-greasy oil that penetrates deep into the skin and provides hydration without clogging pores. Together they contribute to a healthy moisture balance in the skin.

Glycerin: This is a humectant that attracts and retains moisture in the upper layers of the skin. This helps to keep the skin well hydrated and reduce moisture loss.

Natural Balm: In addition, this cream contains a natural balm, which means that it is a mix of natural oils and butters. These oils act as a protective layer on the skin, locking in moisture and preventing water from evaporating from the skin. This keeps the skin hydrated and supple.

By combining these three components, Iconic Elements Natural Moisturizer Cream provides intensive hydration and helps repair dry skin, leaving it feeling supple and comfortable.

Some active ingredients to take care of your dry irritated skin

Avena Sativa

Avena Sativa kernel extract is found in the core of the grain and has antioxidant, calming and anti-inflammatory properties. On the skin, it proves its effect in a number of dermatological inflammatory diseases such as itching (pruritus), insect bites, atopic dermatitis, skin inflammations such as acneiform dermatitis. In addition, it is also more commonly found in sun protection products.

A clinical study in 2015 showed that Avena Sativa applied to the skin has significant clinical effects on skin dryness, scaling, roughness and itching intensity. Avena sativa is well tolerated, can be used safely on all skin types and is also suitable for children. For people with dry, itchy or sensitive skin, it will definitely make life more enjoyable. More about Avena Sativa

Marshmallow root

The Greek name for this plant is Althaea Officinalis, which literally means healer, workshop of an apothecary. In the Netherlands it is known as marshmallow leaf. Marshmallow root has an anti-inflammatory and soothing effect on the skin. The external use on eczema spots and dermatitis has been described.
Althaea officinalis 1% ointment was found to be more effective than hydrocortisone 1% hormone ointment in the treatment of eczema in children. In addition, marshmallow root is used externally to treat boils. Find out more about Marshmallow root


Ectoine is a natural ingredient that is becoming increasingly popular in the skin care industry due to the many benefits it offers to the skin. One of the main advantages of Ectoine is its highly hydrophilic property. This means that it is able to attract and retain water molecules, leading to better skin hydration.

When skin is properly hydrated, it feels smoother and more supple and can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This is particularly helpful for people with dry skin who often suffer from a lack of moisture and a dull, tired appearance of the skin.

In addition, Ectoine can help reduce irritation and inflammation on the skin, such as redness and itching. It can also help repair damaged skin cells by strengthening the skin’s protective barrier.


Silverberg JI, Lei D, Yousaf M, Janmohamed SR, Vakharia PP, Chopra R, Chavda R, Gabriel S, Patel KR, Singam V, Kantor R, Hsu DY, Cella D. Association of itch triggers with atopic dermatitis severity and course in adults. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2020 Nov;125(5):552-559.e2.

Perrelli A, Goitre L, Salzano AM, Moglia A, Scaloni A, Retta SF. Biological Activities, Health Benefits, and Therapeutic Properties of Avenanthramides: From Skin Protection to Prevention and Treatment of Cerebrovascular Diseases. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2018;2018:6015351.

Hon KL, Kung JSC, Ng WGG, Leung TF. Emollient treatment of atopic dermatitis: latest evidence and clinical considerations. Drugs Context. 2018;7:212530.

While you are here

Menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycle. It is a natural biological process. During menopause, lower estrogen levels have a major impact on your skin. Less estrogen makes you prone to drier skin, more skin sagging and wrinkles. More on menopause and skin care

Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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