Dry skin can be a surprising indicator of other problems.

Some people are born with dry skin, and skin becomes drier over time as its barrier layer breaks down with age and naturally loses its oils. To read more about how dry skin happens, check out Dry Skin: Causes Medically Explained Plus What You Can Do.

But dry skin can also be a sign of other problems, including:

– Too many active treatments, or treatments that are too irritating (a “skin fast” may be helpful).

– Over-cleansing: washing the skin too much or using bar soaps or other irritating cleansers (try non-drying, allergen-free cream cleansers).

– Certain medical treatments or medications (such as chemotherapy), or some medical conditions (such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, or an endocrine problem), or a specific skin condition (like contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, or psoriasis).

– Constant exposure to an irritant — see how this patient cleared her chronically chapped lips by

– An underlying irritation or the beginnings of an allergy — this is commonly seen in people who use several products over months or years “without a problem,” when a subtle irritation or the beginnings of an allergy could be developing (as your dermatologist about a patch test).

– Long-term use of topical steroids.

You could simply have been born with dry skin, or have developed it. But dry skin has a way of maintaining itself, and could also be a sign of other skin or health concerns. If your dry skin seems to be worsening or chronic, see a dermatologist.

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