Last updated on December 9th, 2017
Read our article on causes of crusty skin, possible factors and reasons that may put you at risk.
Where is crusty skin likely to occur? Crusting largely involves the skin itself. It may also include areas covered with mucous membranes such as nostrils and the lips.
Common areas include:
- Behind ears
- In ear canals
- On knees and ankles
- On eyelids
- Over eyebrows
- Around lips
- On toes
- The sides of feet or under feet
- The scalp
In the discussion, you will learn the possible causes or why crusting occurs or people get crusty skin.
One of the causes is impetigo.
Impetigo is a bacterial infection that is very common in children. The start of infection is marked with red raw spots or blisters that itch. These blisters could be painful (but not always the case). They burst quickly to form yellow-brown crusty patches.
There are 2 major forms of impetigo namely, bullous impetigo and non-bullous impetigo. Either of Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes causes impetigo.
It is worth noting that the bullous form of impetigo presented with large lesions (bulla) with yellow fluid. It is also characterized by the honey-crusted lesions are the major.
Cuts and skin irritations may act as entry points of the bacteria where infection will occur or start.
Signs and symptoms
Impetigo is marked by formations of red spots or sores. These spots may be small or increase in size to become the size of coins (or even larger than that).
Other symptoms may depend on the form of impetigo which includes fever and swollen glands.
The infection can spread from one body area to another or from one person to the other closely in contact.
The face, (under the nose on nose, around lips, on chin, etc.), sides of the body including the trunk are affected in many cases.
GPs and doctors treat impetigo using antibiotics, which may be in form of ointment or prescription medicines (oral) depending on how the infection is.
Impetigo is not considered a serious case but is highly contagious. Sometimes, you might be required to send your child back to school after treatment.
A carbuncle is a staph infection of the hair follicles made up of “connected furuncles and has several pustular openings.” [www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au]
It is caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria strain that is also responsible for numerous skin infections. A furuncle is more or less a boil which also involves the hair follicles and is caused by S. aureus.
The carbuncle’s structure is made up of a mass of swollen lump under the skin and may be fluid-filled, with pus or dead tissue. It may look red and hurt when touched.
Although a carbuncle may not drain easily, it may weep or form the crust. If you have a carbuncle in one area, it may spread to other areas meaning that it is contagious.
Itching is normally the first sign of boil or carbuncle before it forms. People may experience fever or sickness or weakness.
This infection can occur anywhere.
A professional can treat this infection, especially after careful examination. Nevertheless, you can help it drain and heal by applying a warm compress.
Actinic keratosis (AK) – crusty patches
Another potential cause of crusty, scaly skin patches is attributed to actinic keratoses which are considered growths caused by any harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiations. In special cases, X-rays may be looked at as a potential cause of the skin cancer malignancy.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, actinic keratoses are the most common skin cancer malignancy forms.
The common areas are sun-exposed which include the face and back of hands, the chest, and top of ears.
Signs and symptoms
Solar keratoses may resemble warts but are usually differentiated from each other during differential diagnosis.
What makes solar keratosis quite difficult to identify is the fact that they typically start as small skin lesions (barely 1/4 an inch). The other reason is the nature shown in slow development. Some patients may fail to notice them as a result.
Keratosis is often identified with a crusty, scaly texture when felt by the fingers.
The growths can go with skin color or turn dark, red or sometimes pink.
You may be at risk of actinic keratosis for the following added risk factors.
- Individuals who have a fairer skin complexion
- Old age
- Unusually longer durations of exposure to UV sources at work
- Previous cases of severe sunburns
- Major organ transplants
According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, some of the solar keratoses may turn into squamous cell skin cancer.
After a careful examination, the growths may be removed by a specialist or a licensed GP.
Since there is no definitive way to point out cancer signs, it is important therefore to keep a close watch on all possible skin presentations or abnormalities.
Now, according to research, a study has clearly indicated that skin lesions associated with cancer (melanoma) can mimic symptoms of a normal lesion and thus likely to be overlooked. These may include:
- Itchy sores or lesions that won’t heal after 2 weeks
- Crusty, itching scabs that bleed and persist
- Tiny and slow-growing painful or painless lumps
These factors mean that you are likely to get a crustiness on your skin.
Seborrhea dermatitis is a harmless skin condition. Characterized by its waxy, rough bumps or wart-like growths, the keratoses may appear in a range of colors from dark to dark tan or brown.
As one of the risk factors, seborrhea dermatitis may occur in some people. Here is why.
- Seborrheic dermatitis can affect certain individuals whose family members suffered
- It is not very clear whether sun does play a role in its occurrence
- Seborrheic dermatitis is a rare condition at childhood
Other risk factors
The rest of risk factors may comprise the following:
- Eyelid dermatitis
- Repeated injury (trauma) leading to wounds
- Scalp scabs or facial scabs
- Corns and calluses on feet, toes, ankles or knuckles
- Friction between feet and inner-soles
- Sores on scalp
- Recurrent sores like those that won’t heal
Babies’ skin is at greater risk of crusting even when the skin condition, problem or infection in question is not a huge concern.
For babies, dry and dehydrated skin is a big risk as far as crusting could be the problem. Besides common causes (such as impetigo), other risks for crusty skin in babies include:
- Cold infection with recurring symptoms
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Dehydration due to severe (viral) infections
Prevention is key when it comes to infections that easily spread but crusty skin may not be prevented completely. For instance
These measures include:
- Washing your hands with antibacterial solution and ensure to keep them as clean as possible
- Use anti-itch agents to avoid your child from scratching the sores
- Strictly stop sharing towels, sheets or clothes with the infected ones
- Avoid contact with the sores or the person suspected to have impetigo
- Regularly cleaning the clothes including all pieces of items that have been used by your child
Other preventive or self-care measures
If you want to reduce chances of skin from crusting in future, observe the following.
- Protect it from direct UVR influence or damage by applying an SPF-active sunscreen
- Minimize or totally avoid tanning booths or salons or beds
- Use wide brim caps if you have to be in sun for long durations
Article References and Citations
- Better Health Channel. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/boils. Department of Health & Human Services, Australia. Accessed June 2017.
- NHS choices
- . http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/actinic-keratosis
- RESEARCH UK
- Actinic keratosis. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000827.htm. Accessed online June 2017