How to Get Rid of Dry Skin

Tips for keeping dry skin moisturized and not flaky |

Picture of my dry skin flakes

My skin so dry that it flakes

It's the most wonderful time of the year... for my skin to crack, flake, and itch. Winter weather brings wonderful holiday cheer, but it also makes my dry skin even drier. And not just the skin on my face either! The skin on the rest of my body gets dry to the point that it itches non-stop.

If you are constantly asking yourself "why is my skin so dry?" and you want to know how to fix it, here are the things I do to keep my skin healthy and moisturized year round:

Keep the INSIDE of your Body Moisturized

The first step for getting rid of dry skin is to make sure your body is helping out. This means, eating lots of healthy fats (like walnuts, avocados, salmon) or taking supplements like fish oil (this is great for dry skin and eyes) or vitamin E. Keeping the inside of your body moisturized so your skin doesn't get too dry also means cutting back on salty and fried foods, not smoking, and limiting your intake of alcohol. Make sure you drink plenty of water every day so you don't get dehydrated and eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Keep the OUTSIDE of your Skin Moisturized

The second step for getting rid of dry skin is for you to help out. Sometimes your body can't do it all, so you'll have to turn to topical products and outside methods to soothe your skin. Here are some things you can to do to make dry skin go away fast:

  1. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize - Well, duh, if your skin is dry, of course that means you should moisturize! But the key is to moisturize consistently and smartly. Consistently means you aren't lazy about it. Don't wait until your skin starts to get dry before you put on some lotion. If you moisturize even when your skin isn't dry, you can prevent it from getting dry in the first place. So, turn it into a habit. Put a bottle of lotion or facial moisturizer by your bed to remind yourself to do it before you sleep. Or make sure you always moisturize after you get out of the shower. Moisturizing smartly means you use a moisturizer that actually works. Get a rich moisturizer (oatmeal, shea butter, cocoa butter, glycerin, urea, and petrolatum are all helpful ingredients for dry skin) and make sure you use it. The best moisturizer won't do your dry skin any good if it's sitting in the bottle and not on your skin.

  2. Moisturize when your skin is damp - When you moisturize your skin while it's still a little damp, this helps the moisturizer seal in more hydration. So for your face, instead of drying it off completely, pat it dry with a towel before applying your face cream. For your body, do the same thing. Pat your skin dry so you're not dripping wet and then put on some unscented baby oil or lotion. Let your skin dry naturally to absorb all the moisture and follow up with a second layer of moisturizer if your skin is particularly dry.

  3. Change your products - When your skin starts to feel parched, change your moisturizer into one that's a bit richer. If your skin is combination, you might have to use a lighter moisturizer on the parts that get oily (T-zone, forehead, nose) and a heavier one on the parts that get dry (cheeks). You also want to make sure your cleanser, soap, and/or body wash is not drying out and over-stripping your skin. For example, you may have to switch to a more moisturizing face wash in the winter to prevent the product from rinsing away too much of your skin's natural moisture.

  4. Don't wash with water that's too hot - Avoid steaming your skin and washing with water that is hot. Use warm or lukewarm water so any hydration isn't stripped from your skin. Water that's too hot tends to wash away your skin's protective lipid barrier. For the same reason, avoid taking long showers or baths.

  5. Avoid excessive bathing - Do not shower or wash your face too much. Some people say to avoid taking baths too, but short baths in an oatmeal solution aren't that bad for your skin. Just make sure you don't over wash your skin and dry it out from all the washing. If you have to wash your hands a lot, it might help to apply a thin layer of Vaseline to your skin before washing so not too much of your skin's natural oils are stripped away.

  6. Relieve itchy skin - When your skin is dry, it can also get itchy. Moisturizing regularly can relieve any dry-skin related itchiness, but for really itchy skin, hydrocortisone cream or Gold Bond anti-itch lotions can offer immediate relief.

  7. Limit or reduce treatment products for your skin - A lot of times, dry skin is a side effect from using certain treatment, like ones for acne and wrinkles. If you are trying to clear your skin or fight off aging, this doesn't mean you have to stop using those treatments completely. It simply means to use them less frequently because active ingredients can exacerbate dry skin, especially in the winter.

  8. Don't over-exfoliate - Exfoliating can help slough off any dry and dead skin cells, but don't over do it. The idea is to help your skin renew itself, not to rub off your skin's protective layer. Because of this, it's best to avoid facial and body scrubs because the ingredients in the product can be too stripping. Instead, use a loofah, exfoliating gloves, or dry skin brush to gently exfoliate your skin. Exfoliating gently is also important if you tend to itch from dry skin because over-exfoliation can make the itching worse. After you exfoliate, make sure you moisturize. Tip: If you have dry skin flakes on your face, try massaging them with an oil. This will remove the dry flakes that are ready to come off and well as re-hydrate some of them.

  9. Keep moisturizer nearby - If you're lazy like me, keep a small bottle of moisturizer near you at all times. Put it in your purse, leave one at work, or take some to school with you. When moisturizer is convenient and within reach, chances are, you will use it more often. Travel-sized moisturizers are easy to use, but I usually wash out containers from free beauty samples you get at the store and put in some of my favorite moisturizers. Again, dry skin only goes away if you moisturize consistently!

  10. Vaseline, Vaseline, Vaseline - Vaseline is an oft-over looked warrior when it comes to battling dry skin. Yes, it's gunky, sticky, and thick. But that's exactly what makes it amazing for people with dry skin woes. Vaseline is very emollient and actually forms a formidable barrier on your skin to prevent moisture from evaporating from the surface of your skin. The best way to use Vaseline is to first dampen your skin, put on a layer of moisturizer, and seal everything in with a thin layer of Vaseline. This is probably done best right before you go to bed so you don't it doesn't feel too heavy.

And here are some tips for how to get rid of dryness on specific areas of your face and/or body:

  • Face: Mist your skin with some water and apply a hyaluronic acid serum. Immediately follow with a layer of moisturizer. Then rub some petroleum jelly in between your hands and pat a thin layer of it all over your skin.

  • Lips: Change your toothpaste and mouthwash to ones with less alcohol or SLS. Use cocoa butter or petroleum jelly as a chapstick. Avoid licking your lips too much because that dries them out. Also, remember to breathe through your nose, not through your mouth and try to sleep with your mouth closed. Drink an ample amount of water each day.

  • Hands and feet: Exfoliate your hands and feet and then apply a rich moisturizer (doesn't have to specifically be a hand or foot cream). Finally, put a layer of Vaseline on top. Go to sleep wearing moisturizing socks and gloves over everything.

  • Body: Gently exfoliate your skin in the shower with a soft loofah. Pat your skin dry and immediately apply some skin oil like baby oil or olive oil. Let it absorb into your skin. Once everything dries, follow up with your regular body lotion.

  • Knees and elbows: Exfoliate and moisturize with a body cream. Put a layer of Vaseline on your knees and elbows before you go to bed.

  • Scalp: Make sure your shampoo is not drying out your hair. Massage conditioner into your scalp and let it sit for awhile. Avoid using the blowdryer since that heat will dry out your scalp even more. Brush your hair before you go to bed to stimulate oil production.

Get Extra Help for Dry Skin

Finally, here are additional things you can do to really amp up the moisture for dry skin:

  • Get a humidifier - A warm mist humidifier is great for the winter, especially if you have sinus congestion, but a cool mist humidifier is good too. Humidifiers are great for adding moisture back into the air so the air doesn't pull moisture out of your skin. Make sure you clean humidifiers and take care of them properly to prevent bacterial growth.

  • Use less A/C or heat - Heat can dry out your skin and air circulation from A/C can do the same thing. To keep the air conditioning and heater from drying out your skin, turn up A/C and lower the heater. However, this can be difficult to do in the summer or winter, so you can either get a humidifier (like stated above) or put bowls or glasses of water around the house, especially near the air vents. When I was in Hokkaido, the hotels had the heater on so high (because it was below zero outside) that it nearly turned my skin into jerky. After a miserable night, a nice hotel staff member told to me to put bowls of water on the bed stand to help with the dryness and it really worked.

  • Get a new shower head - A shower head filter that softens water can help your dry skin immensely, particularly if you live in an area with hard water. You can get a new shower filter or a water softening system for your whole house, but the latter is more expensive. Soft water makes your skin feel slippery and smooth.

  • Protect your skin from the elements - Keep out of the wind and the sun, as exposure to both can worsen any dry skin symptoms. You can't change the weather where you live, so if you have to go out and the weather is bad, make sure you cover up to protect your skin from the wind (wear glasses, a scarf over your mouth, and gloves) and wear sunscreen to guard against UV rays.

  • Visit a dermatologist - If you have severe dry skin that does not respond to anything, a trip to the dermatologist is a good idea. You might have eczema, dermatitis, allergies, or psoriasis.

Don't be lazy about dry skin!

The reason my skin gets dry to the point like in the above picture is because I get lazy and stop being on top of keeping my skin moisturized. I'll take a shower and put off moisturizing my skin, telling myself that I'll do it before I go to bed. But I end up being so tired that I forget. And when this repeats for several days, my skin starts to get dry, flake, and crack. I always regret not taking better care of my skin until it gets too dry.

The good news is, it's never too late to rescue dry skin! If you have dry skin from using skin treatments, simply back off, give your skin some time to recover, and moisturize liberally. If you are good about moisturizing your dry skin and taking measures to prevent your skin from getting dry (i.e. not over-washing, etc.), you will see results in a few days to a week. But remember, keep a consistent skin care and moisturizing routine to prevent dry skin from taking over your life!

Last updated: November 15, 2012

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