Eczema or dermatitis is a condition that leads to dry skin as well, however, there is an accompanying inflammation that leads to redness, more severe itching and in severe cases, blistering, fissuring and oozing.
Eczema can range from an occasional patch of dry, irritated skin for some, to a severe and deeply distressing health problem for others that can can affect large areas and be very painful, resulting in inflamed skin that cracks and bleeds.
Dr Noor Almaani, consultant dermatologist at The Private Clinic of Harley Street said "Dry skin is a very common problem caused by skin dehydration and loss of natural skin oils, which can be due to many factors, including a lack of humidity, using harsh soaps, the ageing process and medications.
The emotional and psychological impact of living with a skin condition is rarely discussed and National Eczema Week, which runs from 17th to 25th September aims to highlight the issue.
The discomfort, pain and irritation of eczema can affect self-esteem, relationships, careers and even be linked with depression and anxiety.
The most common form is being atopic eczema. It appears in the first few months of life and occurs in any area, the most common sites being the skin creases, neck, back of knees and elbows. Dr Almaani said: "This usually occurs in genetically susceptible individuals and is commonly associated with asthma and hay fever. It usually presents itself during childhood."
Other types include asteatotic eczema, which often occurs in the elderly and typically over the shins. Allergic contact dermatitis causes eczema on skin which has come into contact with a substance the sufferer is allergic to. Irritant contact dermatitis causes a flare-up on areas that come into contact with, for example, certain cosmetics or washing powders. Pompholyx eczema causes an itchy, bubble-like rash on the hands and sometimes feet that worsens in hot weather.
Eczema tends to be more common in infants and children and many grow out of it, but it can recur later in life and can start in adulthood.
Dr. Helen Webberley, GP for Oxford Online Pharmacy said"Many babies have dry skin in their early weeks and this is because they have come out of a nice warm, wet environment where the skin is protected by the vernix - the white creamy substance that babies have on their skin when they are first born.
There is no cure but eczema can be managed by identifying triggers and finding ways to avoid them is important. Specialists can advise on coping with severe symptoms. Some people may require treatments and medications, including suitable moisturizers and steroid creams.
Very severe flare-ups may need to be protected with a suitable dressing too.
Dr Adam Friedmann of the Harley Street Dermatology Clinic said "Steroids are a valuable tool in the treatment or control of eczema, particularly during a flare-up.
There are two steps in managing eczema, the first is to moisturize. The inflamed skin needs lots of moisture and any creams should be applied multiple times in a day. The second is a mild steroid cream in order to get rid of the redness and inflammation.
Misusing the steroids leads to other problems. If instructions for treatment are followed correctly, skin can recover properly and the eczema will be much easier to manage.
Dr Friedmann said: "Living with a skin allergy can be difficult, especially when there are so many irritants in everyday household items."
Things to be avoided are irritants such as soap, wipes and fragrances and certain washing detergents. Overheating can also trigger flare-ups, so it is advised to avoid hot baths and wearing too many layers.
Finding time to relax is vital. Dr Friedmann said: "Stress and exhaustion lower the immune system and make most rashes worse, so it's advisable to get plenty of sleep and de-stress when possible."
Parents should not ignore skin if it is particularly red, inflamed, or especially if it is weeping. Go to your GP early on to ask about treatments and how to move forward with a game plan that reduces your baby's discomfort.
Webberley said: "If the eczema becomes infected, it will become resistant to the steroid cream and moisturizer, and they will stop working. If this happens, the red and inflamed skin will become more apparent and perhaps become weepy or messy. At this stage you may need some antibiotics and you should discuss this with your GP."