Dermatologists' Top 10 Tips for Relieving Dry Skin
Changes in Skin Care Can Soothe Aging Skin
Following the same skin care routine
that worked so well in our youth can take a toll on aging skin —
especially when the humidity drops. Mature skin is thinner and
drier. Without a change in skin care, dry air can make fine lines
and wrinkles more noticeable. It can make skin flake, crack, and
even bleed. To help alleviate these unwanted effects, dermatologists
Bathe daily. A daily bath or
shower can add much-needed moisture to the skin. To hydrate the
skin with a daily bath or shower, follow these guidelines:
Keep it short. A 5- to
10-minute bath or shower adds moisture. Spend more time in
the water and the skin begins to dry.
Use warm, not hot, water.
Hot water removes natural oils from the skin more quickly
than warm water. The more natural oils removed, the drier
the skin becomes.
Close the bathroom door.
This keeps the much-needed humidity in the room.
Use a mild cleanser.
Deodorant bars, fragrance in soaps, and products containing
alcohol strip natural oils from the skin, which dries the
skin. Look for a mild, fragrance-free cleanser that
Gently pat the skin dry.
Gently blotting the skin helps retain moisture and is less
irritating to dry, sensitive skin.
Apply moisturizer within 3
minutes of getting out of the bath or shower. Contrary
to popular belief, moisturizer does not add moisture to the
skin. Moisturizer traps existing water in the skin,
preventing the water from evaporating. To trap water from a
bath or shower in the skin, moisturizer must be applied
within 3 minutes of bathing. Applied regularly, this helps
decrease dryness and itching.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisture.
Dry skin needs moisture. Applying moisturizer within 3 minutes
of bathing seals in much-needed water. If skin is noticeably dry
and uncomfortable, moisturizing more frequently throughout the
day can help the skin heal. Consistent use of moisturizer will
help prevent dry skin from returning.
Select moisturizers best suited
to relieve dry skin. Ointments and creams tend to be more
effective than lotions. Creams and ointments also usually less
irritating to dry, sensitive skin.
Moisturizer does not need to be expensive to be effective. Look
at the ingredients not the price. When selecting a moisturizer
to soothe dry skin, look for products that contain lactic acid
or urea. These help alleviate even severe dryness. Hyaluronic
acid, which naturally occurs in the skin and diminishes with
age, can help the skin hold water. Dimethicone and glycerin help
draw water to the skin and keep it there. Lanolin, mineral oil,
and petrolatum (also known as petroleum jelly) effectively trap
water in the skin.
Check the ingredients on
anti-aging products. Some anti-aging products contain
retinoids or an alpha-hydroxy acid, which can irritate dry,
itchy skin. Switching to a more moisturizing formula can bring
Read the ingredients on other
skin care products. Using mild, unscented skin care products
can help reduce irritation and make skin feel more comfortable.
Deodorant soaps, alcohol-based toners, and products that contain
fragrance can irritate dry, sensitive skin. Some people with
mature skin find using mild, unscented products year round helps
their skin feel better.
Plug in a humidifier. A
humidifier can add much-needed moisture to the air.
Avoid wearing wool and other
rough materials next to the skin. These can irritate dry
skin, making the condition worse.
Give hands the extra attention
they deserve. Hands often show the effects of a dry
environment more than any other part of the body. These tips may
help hands heal and prevent future problems:
When outdoors in winter,
wear gloves. This helps protect the skin from the cold,
dry air, which can zap moisture from the skin.
Apply hand cream after each
hand washing. It is important not to skimp on hand
washing, which can remove harmful bacteria and viruses.
Applying hand cream after each hand washing helps hands
retain much-needed moisture. This is especially important
for people who frequently immerse their hands in water
throughout the day. If more relief is needed, dab petroleum
jelly on the hands before bed.
If hands are frequently
immersed in water, wearing waterproof gloves can help
protect the hands. Again, it is important not to skimp
on hand washing.
Wear sunscreen every day.
This is probably one of the most important and difficult tips to
remember. Even in the winter, exposure to the sun’s rays speeds
up the aging process in the skin. This exposure increases the
risk of developing dry skin, wrinkles, age spots, and spider
veins. Daily use of a sunscreen can slow these sun-induced signs
of aging and reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.
Dermatologists recommend wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with
a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher on all skin that
will be exposed.
Apply lip balm often.
Carrying a tube of lip balm and applying it frequently
throughout the day helps heal dry, cracked lips. If lips are
extremely dry, dab on petroleum jelly before bed. Continuing to
use lip balm once the lips heal can keep lips soft and supple.
Dermatologists recommend using a lip balm that has an SPF of at
least 30. This can help reduce signs of premature aging and
prevent skin cancer on the lips.
When to See a Dermatologist
If these changes do not bring relief, make an appointment to see a
dermatologist. Very dry skin may require a prescription ointment or
cream. Dry skin also can be a sign of an underlying medical
condition such as eczema. A type of eczema called eczema craquelé or
asteatotic eczema develops in older adults. A dermatologist can
examine the skin and explain what will help alleviate the dryness
American Academy of Dermatology. How to Protect Your Skin When Jack
Frost Bites. News release: 2004, October 13.
Bernhard,JD, Pruritus and Xerosis. American Academy of Dermatology
Web site (available to members only).
Roberts WE. Geriatric Dermatology Update. Presented during a focus
session (FOC 616) at the Summer Academy Meeting of the American
Academy of Dermatology, August 2007; New York City.
All content solely
developed by the American Academy of Dermatology
Different seasons can require
different moisturizers. When the air is humid, a lotion may
be all that is needed. A cream or ointment may be necessary
when the air is dry.