I always struggle with dry skin during the wintertime, but this year it’s been even worse because of all the hand washing and hand sanitizing I’ve been doing! And since dry skin tends to be such a common issue this time of year, I thought it would be the perfect time to put together a helpful blog post on the topic!
In this post, you’ll learn about some of the many potential causes of dry skin, and how banish dry skin from your face, hands, and body. You’ll also pick up some simple tips for preventing dry skin from becoming an issue in the first place, along with some effective home remedies you can use to promote healing, eliminate itchiness, and soothe irritation.
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be armed with all the information you need to restore your skin to a happier, more hydrated state! 🙂
Note: As always, remember that I am blog author, not a doctor, and while this post contains health information, it should not be taken as medical advice. If you have questions or concerns about your skin, please consult a dermatologist or other medical professional.
What Causes Dry Skin?
The external surface of your skin (or epidermis) helps protect your insides from the environment around you, and it plays an important role in overall skin hydration. The skin barrier, which is made up of tough skin cells “glued” together by lipids, retains moisture inside your skin to keep it hydrated, but when the skin barrier is compromised or damaged, it can develop microscopic cracks that lead to moisture loss.
It’s this process of moisture loss that causes dry skin, but as most of know all too well, dry skin is rarely just dry. Dry skin can feel tight, itchy, or rough to the tough, and it may look inflamed, flaky, or irritated too. These are all signs that our skin barrier has been damaged in some way.
But what did the damage? Well, that’s where it gets more complicated. Unfortunately for us, there are a number of things that can compromise the integrity of our skin barrier and make our skin dry, including:
- Cold weather
- Low humidity/dry air
- Too much exfoliation
- Long, hot showers
- Allergic reactions
- Exposure to irritants
- Skin care product/ingredient intolerances
- …and many others!
People with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis are particularly prone to bouts of dry skin, but for different reasons. Eczema is actually a cluster of skin diseases typically triggered by irritants or allergens, resulting in flare-ups of dry skin that may be red, flaky, and itchy. Psoriasis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that can result in patches of dry skin with a scaly and raised appearance.
Dry skin is also a known side effect of certain medications. So if you’re currently struggling with dry skin and can’t determine the cause, talk to your doctor or a trusted medical professional to find out if dry skin could be a side effect of a medication you’re currently taking.
How To Get Rid Of Dry Skin
Getting rid of dry skin isn’t really a question of curing or healing the skin, because our skin is always regenerating and healing on its own. Instead, the best way to get rid of dry skin (is by avoiding the habits, conditions, and/or irritants that are often at the root of skin barrier damage.
Below, I’ve outlined some simple tips that will help you eliminate irritants and get rid of dry skin depending on where it is occurring.
Dry Skin On Your Face
If you’re dealing with dry skin primarily on your face, your skin care routine may be to blame. Here are some simple changes you can make for more hydrated and moisturized skin.
First, make sure you’re washing your face with a gentle, hydrating cleanser (such as CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser or La Roche-Posay Toleraine Hydrating Gentle Cleanser). Your safest bet is to choose a fragrance-free formula, since fragrances can easily irritate sensitive skin.
Second, be careful with acne treatments. Classic acne fighters like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids can be effective, but they can easily strip the skin of its natural oils and cause dryness and peeling. If you’re using an acne product and struggling with dry skin, try dialing back to using it every other day, or even every three days, to give your skin a chance to recover.
Third, it’s important to exfoliate gently. Exfoliating can help get rid of flakes and dead skin cells, but over-exfoliating can make dryness and irritation even worse. Instead of using harsh exfoliating scrubs, try using a microfiber makeup remover cloth to gently exfoliate and cleanse at the same time. (And always moisturize after exfoliating!)
And last, but not least, use a rich moisturizing cream. Slather it on before you go to bed to give it several hours to sink in, moisturize, and help your skin repair itself. Look for a cream with hydrating ingredients like ceramics and squalenes, such as First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream or e.l.f. Happy Hydration Cream.
Dry Skin On Your Hands
Many people have been struggling with dry hands because of increased hand washing during the pandemic. If that includes you, keep a bottle of moisturizing lotion (such as CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion) near the sink and use it often!
Other hands-on activities can also strip moisture from your hands, like gardening, washing dishes, cleaning, making car repairs, etc. In these instances, wearing protective gloves suited to the activity can go a long way! (If you have especially sensitive skin or a skin condition, you may even want to wear a pair of thin cotton gloves underneath them to absorb sweat and keep your hands dry.)
Dry Skin On Your Body
To get dry of dry skin on your legs, arms, and other areas of your body, apply a moisturizing lotion regularly. If you find it hard to remember to apply lotion, start doing it every time you get out the shower so that it becomes part of your routine.
For especially dry, itchy, or cracked skin, apply a thick ointment like Aquaphor Healing Ointment to the area regularly until symptoms improve. Ointments are thicker and greasier than lotions, but that’s sort of the point—it helps them sit on the surface of the skin longer to promote healing.
5 Things You Can Do To Help Prevent Dry Skin
1. Take Shorter, Cooler Showers
Long, hot showers or baths may help you unwind, but they can also wreak havoc on your skin! Hot water can damage the skin barrier and lead to moisture loss, making your skin drier and flakier over time. Try to limit your showers to about 10 minutes, and keep the water temperature lukewarm (similar to a heated swimming pool.)
2. Wear Cotton Clothing
Avoid wearing wool and polyester and other synthetic materials, as they can cause skin to itch. Switching to 100% cotton clothing for a while can often help remedy an itchy situation.
3. Humidify Your Environment
Sleep with a humidifier in your room, especially during the wintertime. Humidifiers emit water vapor that raises the relative humidity of the environment. Moist air will help your skin retain moisture and stay properly hydrated.
4. Drink More Water
And speaking of proper hydration, are you doing your part to keep your skin hydrated? And by that I mean drinking enough water, because if your body is dehydrated, your skin will be too! Drink lots of water to help keep dry skin at bay.
5. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Alcohol and caffeinated drinks have a diuretic effect that can lead to dehydration through increased urination. Cutting back on alcohol and caffeine can make it easier for you to keep yourself hydrated.
So as I mentioned before, dry and damaged skin can usually heal itself once the causes have been identified and avoided, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help it out with a few helpful home remedies! And as an added bonus, most home remedies for dry skin also help reduce itching, which is very frequently the most miserable part of struggling with dry skin!
5 Effective Home Remedies For Dry Skin
Mixing oatmeal into water and spreading it over irritated skin can be cooling and soothing. If the itching is widespread, bathing in an oatmeal bath can be a great way to soothe large areas of skin. Just add 2 cups of colloidal oatmeal to a lukewarm bath and have a good, long soak.
2. Essential Oils
Many essential oils have anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing properties that can soothe itchy skin and alleviate irritation, including geranium oil, lavender oil, and peppermint oil. You can add them to your bath water or dilute them with a carrier oil and apply them to the affected area of your skin.
3. Coconut Oil
Especially during the dry winter months, dry skin commonly affects the heels, hands, and elbows. Coconut oil makes a great “spot treatment” you can put on and leave overnight, and you should see significant improvement come morning.
Put a thick layer of coconut oil on heels, hands and elbows (preferably after a bath to soften up your skin), then cover the greasy areas with socks, gloves and a long sleeved pajama top. You should have a restful night of itch-free sleep and see much less dryness in the morning!
4. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera, whether from a bottle or straight from the leaf, can help soothe irritation and reduce itching. Apply it to the affected skin, then you may want to follow with a lotion or moisturizer to avoid any feelings of tightness.
Beeswax, especially when combined with other moisturizers like coconut oil and vitamin E, can be very beneficial to those suffering from dry skin, or a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis. My favorite homemade salve features all of these skin-soothing ingredients, and it couldn’t be easier to make. You can include one of your favorite essential oils for additional benefits, or slather it on as-is.
Related: 21 Brilliant Benefits Of Beeswax
So there you have it, more information than you ever thought there was to know about dry skin. 🙂 I hope these tips and tricks prove as useful to you as they have been to me!
Do you have any go-to remedies or helpful insights about dry skin?