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

Active ingredients to reduce your dry skin, eczema

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.

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, boils and dermatitis has been described.


Ectoine has a strong water-attracting property that makes the skin better hydrated, making the skin feel smoother and more supple.

Also known ingredients such as aloe vera, coconut oil and ceramide


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


Leave a Comment

Aanbevolen berichten

skin care

Titaniumdioxide in skincare

There has been a discussion about titanium dioxide (TiO2) for some time. It is mainly used to make products such as latex paint, medicines, cosmetics

Lees meer »
Cosmetic ingredients

What is a peptide and is it useful?

In the world of skin care, peptides are increasingly being touted. From various studies, a peptide has some positive properties. Think of stimulating collagen in

Lees meer » maakt gebruik van cookies. Wij gebruiken onder meer analytische cookies (met Google Analytics) om onze site continu te verbeteren. Lees onze privacybeleid voor meer informatie. Indien je de analytische cookies wilt uitschakelen, klik hier.