How to Tell the Difference Between Dry Skin and Eczema

Many people with dry skin have trouble distinguishing between a patch of dry skin and an eczema flare. While eczema typically occurs in people with dry skin, it’s a distinct condition that requires specific treatment. By understanding the difference between dry skin and eczema, you can more effectively receive the care that you need to regain hydrated, healthy skin. 


Eczema is a skin condition that leads to rough, red, and scaly patches of skin. In severe cases of eczema, the skin may bleed and crust over. This condition occurs when the skin can’t retain enough water to self-moisturize, which disrupts the skin’s protective barrier. Harmful bacteria can quickly reach the skin when this barrier is compromised. 

Eczema vs. Dry Skin

The main difference between eczema and dry skin is that eczema occurs when the skin has an allergic reaction, sometimes with no known allergy trigger. This is why eczema is commonly seen in patients with a history of allergies or asthma. Dry skin, on the other hand, tends to result from factors including cold weather, low humidity, dehydration, and not using moisturizer. 

Additionally, eczema causes more severe itching than dry skin. While dry skin may be accompanied by some itchiness and irritation, it won’t be overwhelming. Dry skin can be managed with a thick moisturizer, while an eczema flare may require the use of topical steroid cream to suppress the immune system and stop the allergic reaction.  

Treating Eczema

In addition to topical steroids, moisturizing is a key part of eczema treatment. Emollient moisturizers, whether in the form of ointment, lotion, cream, or gel form, should be used every day to prevent flares. For some patients, dietary changes can also help manage eczema flares. 

Dr. Jaime Kratz at Kratz Allergy and Asthma is an eczema specialist in Port Richey and Trinity. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!