Ashen Skin

It’s very easy to ignore ashen skin during winter. As indoor heat and dry air draw moisture from the skin, it can be difficult to tell whether the dry skin results from the cold season or a serious underlying condition. Most people who visit dermatologists end up being diagnosed with psoriasis or eczema despite taking it lightly as ordinary dry skin.

What is ashen akin?

Ashen skin is a very dry skin that appears greyish or “ashy” due to the collection of dry, dead cells on its surface. Sometimes, it’s referred to as xerosis or asteatosis. Although it’s not a severe condition, it can be embarrassing and uncomfortable since it makes you look unhealthy.

Anyone is prone to ashen skin regardless of their skin tone. The only difference may be the dry skin appearance. For some people, it may look grey while for others it may appear slightly green or pale blue.

What causes ashen skin?

Dry skin has many possible causes. However, some people have higher chances of experiencing it than others due to certain risk factors which include:

  • Weather conditions
  • Heat
  • Harsh soaps and detergents
  • Hot baths and showers
  • Chlorinated water
  • Age
  • Health conditions
  • Occupation
  • Diet

Weather conditions:

Harsh weather conditions such as dry and low humidity provoke skin dryness. If you reside in regions with scorching winds or extremely cold temperatures, your skin requires additional TLC to fend off flakes. That explains why your skin feels drier during winter than other seasons.


Just like bitterly cold weather, extreme heat can also make your skin dry. Home facilities such as fireplaces, space heaters, and central heating can reduce indoor humidity extracting moisture from your skin. It’s recommended to purchase humidifiers capable of adding moisture back to your indoor air.

Harsh soaps and detergents:

Harsh shampoos, detergents, and soaps strip your skin of natural oils making it dry. If you suspect any of these products, opt for fragrance-free alternatives that are gentle on your skin.

Hot baths and showers:

Hot baths and showers are comforting during winter. But did you know they may harm your skin? Hot water removes essential oils from your skin which are responsible for moisturizing it.

It’s advisable to shower with lukewarm water. Also, keep showers short. Take between 6 and 10 minutes to add moisture to your skin. Staying for too long does exactly the opposite.

Chlorinated water:

Have you observed a white appearance on your skin after swimming? That may be a result of chlorine extracting naturally occurring oils from your skin. Although chlorine is vital for destroying harmful bacteria in water, it’s not so friendly to your skin. moreover, it does not discriminate good bacteria from bad.


The skin gets thinner and loses moisture easily as people age. This natural aging process comes with several skin changes, including:

  • Reduced ability to produce protective lipids
  • Decreased sebum production
  • Declined sebaceous glands activity
  • Diminished natural hydration
  • Reduced blood flow

As a result, people above forty years are advised to use moisturizers to protect the skin from drying out.

Health conditions:

People with a history of other skin disorders are more likely to be affected by ashen skin in the future. Such health conditions include psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. The increased risk is a result of a change in skin structure allowing moisture to be lost more easily.


Certain working environments increase the risk of having dry skin. For instance, hairdressers, lab technologists, plumbers, and nurses immerse their skin in water many times while working. This may cause the skin to become raw and crack increasing rate of moisture loss.


Some diets like fat-free types can lead to an inadequate supply of essential fatty acids, which are crucial for moisturizing the skin. Similarly, excessive consumption of alcohol or overdose of certain medications increases your chances of dry skin.

What are signs and symptoms of ashen skin?

Signs are what you see while symptoms are what you feel. They include:

  • Ashy or gray appearance
  • Flaking, rough or scaly skin
  • Cracked lips
  • Cracks in skin

When your skin dries, cracks develop that allow germs to get into your body. Once inside, they cause infections. Red sore spots are early signs of a skin infection.

How is ashen skin treated?

Although ashen skin is uncomfortable and unsightly, it’s relatively easy to manage. Most dermatologists recommend the following:


Applying a moisturizer many times a day can help. Moisturizers make the skin soft and smooth reducing the chances of cracking. They come in the form of oils, cream, and lotions. Your dermatologist can recommend what is appropriate for you.

If your skin is dehydrated, a moisturizer with lactic acid or urea is helpful. These constituents assist the skin in holding water. The ingredients are found in both prescription-based moisturizers and the ones bought over the counter. A disadvantage is that the ingredients may sting if your skin is cracked or affected by eczema.


Your dermatologist may prescribe specific medicine to apply on your skin when it’s extremely dry. The medicine can be immune modulators or corticosteroids. They are good for relieving itchiness, swelling, and redness. You may also apply a moisturizer many times a day.

Change your daily activities:

If your daily chores cause your skin to dry, for instance immersing your skin in water, it’s prudent to take a break for a few of days. When you resume, wear protective clothing such as gloves or apply a recommended moisturizer.

Are there ashen skin complications?

Itching is as a result of secondary bacterial infection. Skin infections may be mild or severe requiring antibiotic treatment. When itching intensifies, it leads to a repeat lesion scratching cycle which makes rubbed regions thick and may eventually result in lichen simplex chronicus.

When to visit the doctor again?

If moisturizing, medicine or change of activity doesn’t work, and dryness continues accompanied by itchiness, make a trip to your doctor or dermatologist again. It may indicate other conditions such as contact dermatitis or eczema that require special therapy.

Ashen skin needs treatment. If ignored for long, it may lead to devastating consequences. Whenever you notice the signs and symptoms mentioned above, visit your dermatologist.