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What treatments should I be looking for to manage dry skin and eczema?

Moisturizers are always a good choice when you are dealing with dry skin, whether mild or severe. If the dryness is moderate (itching, irritation, redness) or severe (cracking, bleeding, pain), a stronger treatment may be necessary. Weak topical steroids are often available over the counter, are fast, and effective. They have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce itch and irritation, so that the skin can recover.

What do dermatologists look for in recommending treatments?

In dry skin, the barrier function is often compromised. The skin can become irritated, itchy, and inflamed, and if it becomes severe, cracking of the skin and bleeding can occur. Called the itch/scratch cycle, severe dry skin can create an unpleasant pattern of itching and scratching loop that quickly deteriorate the skin condition. If your skin becomes dry and itchy, it is best to break up this negative loop with treatments at an early stage while the skin is still not damaged.

Topical steroids are fast acting anti-inflammatory drugs that help calm down inflamed itchy skin. Low strength topical steroids are often available over the counter.
If the dryness is severe, visit a dermatologist, who may subscribe a stronger product.
Moisturizers need to be used in conjunction with treatment for best effect.