Dry Skin Remedies and Treatment

It's tight. It's itchy. It's ashy. All in all, your skin is just flaking out on you. Have you been here before? You're lubing up before you go out, but your lube needs winterization. Time for a skin-tervention.

Most people who find themselves coping with very dry skin have the issue intermittently. Winter, hormones, and health can all play a part. So can aging. It's not uncommon to meet people who carry on into their twenties and thirties using the same skincare regimen that suited them in their teens. It may be time to stop using acne products, or to move from oil-free moisturizers to something with a bit more substance.  Whatever your concern, if your skin is flaking, itching, and cracking, it's time for a new plan.

Dry, Cracking Hands

If your hands are cracking, you must first close the cracks. This can literally be done with glue or tape. My personal favorite is to use a liquid bandage applied similarly to nailpolish. Keep using this for a few days, and reapply after handwashings. Or, use a good medical tape for any deep cracks.

If your hands aren't deeply cracked, you can start right in on the moisture phase. You'll want to both moisturize and protect. To moisturize, use a rich moisturizer like olive oil or shea butter at night, and then wear gloves.  They may not be sexy, but neither are your rough, dry hands!

During the day, your goal is to reduce exposure. Try a lanolin or glycerine based hand cream, and then wear gloves in any severe weather. Reapply after washing your hands. Avoid using hand sanitizer, as this is generally pure alcohol and can be very drying. Instead, wash your hands with water and a gentle hand soap.

Flaky Facial Skin

Dry facial skin is tricky, because unlike dry feet and hands, your overzealous application of greasy products can result in acne. Then you have a rotating cycle of dry-to-oily-to-dry-to-oily. At its worst, your skin looks like a red, irritated, flaky acne eruption. This, in fact, happens to many people with acne-prone skin as they attempt to fight the acne by drying out their skin. You get the idea.

So how do you alleviate your dryness without clogging your pores? The answer is, you need good products. Unlike your feet and hands, where in a pinch, you can go to the kitchen and use some good ole' extra virgin, you need a careful approach with your face.

First, you need to assess your level and areas of dryness. Are you just dry on the forehead and around your nose and mouth? Or are your chin and cheeks also dry? If it is only on the forehead and around the nose and mouth that you are experiencing flaking and tightness, you currently have what would be referred to as dry/combination skin. If you're dry everywhere but your nose, you have dry skin. If even the top of your nose is dry and flaky, at least for right now, you have very dry skin. This is important. Many facial products use terms such as these in their descriptions so that you can purchase the products that are right for you.

Next, have you been using acne products? If so, you should discontinue them for awhile while you get your skin back in balance. Many dermatologists recommend Cetaphil cleanser and facial lotion for attaining this balance. If you have been using oil-free products for years, and they are no longer fitting the bill, it's time to embrace oils. Light oils include peanut oil, carnation oil, and apricot kernel oil. If you traditionally have oily or combination skin, you'll want to stay on the light side and be careful not to overdo it on the moisturizer.

If your skin is very dry, and you have not been using any acne or oil-free products, you will either want to change your cleanser (if your skin feels tight when you're done washing, it's too drying), or your moisturizer. If you are currently using a foaming or gel cleanser, you may wish to switch to a cream-based cleanser. If you are currently using a lotion-formulation for your moisturizer, try a cream.

Additionally, you may want to consider a night cream. Moisturizing at night has the benefit of getting your skin deep-conditioned while you're at home asleep, leaving your skin free of the greasy glow during the day. If you wear cosmetics, a lighter moisturizer is preferable during the day under your make-up.

Finally, if your main concern is peeling, or if you see a lot of whiteness when you apply your facial moisturizer, it's time to exfoliate. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells so that your living skin can receive the moisture it needs. You can exfoliate with a scrub or a light acid. I do not recommend the stereotypical apricot kernel scrub, since the apricot stone is rough and can tear your skin at a microscopic level. Instead, I recommend scrubs with small "micro-beads." My favorite exfoliants are light acids, such as the glycolic acid wash found in the Mario Badescu line. It's gentle enough to use once or twice a week as your cleanser. (Don't forget to avoid the eye area.) It helps keep your skin looking younger, too!

Dry Skin on Feet and Elbows

For dry feet, one of your best defenses is to wear socks. But it is equally important to exfoliate the tough dry skin away, or your thick foot skin (mostly callouses) won't be able to absorb the moisture you apply. Try a paddle equipped with sandpaper, coupled with a foot scrub. Alternately, you can use a light acid (such as glycolic acid) to remove the dry skin. On your face, this is usually referred to as a "peel." Funny no one thinks of doing the same thing to their feet!

Just like your hands, you should moisturize, then cover your feet before bed. I know, I know... Who wants to sleep in their socks? (Answer: YOU do.) Shea butter, cocoa butter, lanolin, and glycerine are all your friends. I'm particularly fond of shea butter for my feet, since it has a somewhat grippy residue, instead of a slippery one.

Itchy, Ashy Body Skin

If your dry skin issues are not localized, what you need is a gentle cleansing wash, instead of a harsh soap or shower gel, as well as a good multi-purpose body cream. Try cream or lotion-based body cleansers, like those by Aveeno and Oil of Olay. You can also try Cetaphil's Gentle Cleanser. For your moisturizer, something with shea or cocoa butter is great, but make sure that the butter or oil advertized is actually a large percentage of the product. Many drugstore products have cut corners by advertizing a "cocoa butter" that is actually mostly fillers. To get the full benefit, make sure that your moisturizer contains enough of the good stuff.

If you have other skin issues at work, such as Eczema, Psoriasis, Rosacea or Atopic Dermatitis, you'll want to consult with a dermatologist. However, some over-the-counter companies advertise that their products are effective in treating such problems. Aveeno, Yu-Be, and B. Kamins all advertise effective treatments. The camphor in Yu-Be's Skin Care Cream makes it especially comforting (think Carmex) for itchy or irritated skin.

Testing Time

Now that you have an idea of what you need, it's time to try out some new regimens. Keep in mind that if you buy new products:

  1. They are designed to be used together, and mixing products from different brands is only good if you know what you're doing. Some of the ingredients from different lines can create adverse reactions when mixed. For instance, if you're using a glycolic acid wash, you wouldn't want a moisturizer with AHA fruit acids. You might end up with chemical burns.
  2. You should give your new line at least two weeks before deciding on its effectiveness. Your skin will have an adjustment period. However, if you develop a rash or other adverse reaction, you should discontinue the use of anything new immediately and consult a doctor if necessary.

Time to get started. Good luck on your journey to a more glowing you!

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