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Xerosis is the medical name for dry skin, which can weaken/compromise the skin’s barrier function. It is especially severe and recurrent during winters when the air is very dry.
Dry skin is less elastic and more prone to tearing, which is why early treatment is the best way to avoid undue skin damage in the future. Most cases of xerosis can easily be self-treated through proper skincare coupled with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Home Remedies for Dry Skin
The following home remedies using easily available ingredients can help relieve dry skin.
1. Massage some coconut oil
Coconut oil can help relieve mild to moderate xerosis, much the same way as a regular mineral oil would, without causing any adverse side effects. (1)
How to use:
- Apply warm coconut oil all over your body every night before going to sleep. Wash it off in the morning.
- You can use coconut oil as a regular skin moisturizer as well.
Coconut oil can help deeply hydrate and repair dry skin to restore its barrier function. It also exhibits significant antibacterial activity to prevent infections.
2. Apply colloidal oatmeal to soothe dry skin
Besides being a potent anti-inflammatory agent, oatmeal is loaded with protein that strengthens the protective barrier of the skin, thus preventing TEWL. Moreover, oats have the highest oil content (10% and up) among all the cereals.
The topical application of colloidal oatmeal not only hydrates the skin but also helps lock in moisture to preserve and strengthen the skin’s structural integrity.
3. Apply aloe vera for skin hydration
When applied topically, aloe vera hydrates the irritated skin and forms a protective layer over it to prevent further damage by external irritants.
Multiple aloe-containing creams and gels can be used to moisturize dry skin, but the product should have a minimum of 10% aloe vera concentration to produce a noticeable effect. (6)
How to use:
Apply raw aloe vera on the skin to relieve skin dryness:
- Cut open a fresh aloe vera leaf and squeeze the gel out of it.
- Apply the gel to your dry skin and let it sit for 10–15 minutes.
- Rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Repeat this process two times every day.
Aloe vera is credited with anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, which make it a worthy agent for combating xerosis. (7)
4. Moisturize your skin with honey
Honey is not only a moisturizer but also a natural humectant, which means it hydrates the skin and seals in moisture due to its hygroscopic property. It is also added to various sun care and sunscreen products to counter the harsh effects of their radiation-blocking components. (8)(9)
Honey can hydrate and heal dry, damaged skin when applied regularly without any undue side effects or the exorbitant cost.
5. Apply glycerin on dry areas
Much like honey, glycerin is also an easily available humectant that can intensively moisturize your skin and then keep it hydrated for long. This slightly sticky liquid forms an impervious layer over the skin to prevent TEWL, which can help address severely dry skin.
A 2011 study showed that uremic xerosis can be managed successfully with proper emollient therapy using glycerin and paraffin. (10)
How to use:
Simply massage a small amount of glycerin over the dry patches. It can feel a little heavy, but you must let it sit on your skin for a while so that product is sufficiently absorbed. It’s best to apply it before bed and leave it on overnight.
Glycerin is an effective skin moisturizer that is much more affordable than most commercial brands and is unlikely to cause any adverse skin reactions when used regularly.
6. Scrub your flaky skin with coffee grounds
Dry skin is extremely brittle and prone to damage or tearing, so you must handle it gently.
Regular scrubs may prove too harsh for your already-sensitive skin, but you must exfoliate your flaky skin once in a while to remove the dead layers. Getting rid of the damaged skin allows fresh layers to take its place by speeding up skin regeneration.
Coffee scrubs have been helpful for a lot of people with dry skin, but there isn’t enough scientific evidence to validate its skin benefits.
How to use:
Leftover grounds from a morning cup of coffee can be used as an excellent scrub for dry, damaged skin.
The brewing process softens the granules such that they have a mild exfoliating action that can slough off the dead cells without irritating your sensitive skin. However, never use fresh coffee grounds that have not been brewed as they can be too rough on your skin.
The best time to use a coffee scrub is when you are in the shower, as your skin is already moist, and you can rinse it off conveniently without making a mess.
Caution: Do not scrub your skin too vigorously or too often.
7. Treat your dry skin with milk cream
Milk has been a beauty favorite since ancient times and continues to be a widely popular home remedy for various skin problems, including dry skin.
Whole milk or milk cream is replete with natural lipids that can restore moisture to your parched skin. It also contains lactic acid that can stimulate collagen production and hydrate the skin.
Moreover, milk works as a natural toner and cleanser that can balance your skin’s pH and draw out the impurities from the pores. Applying cold milk can also help soothe the redness associated with xerosis, and its moisturizing effect can help remove dry skin flakes.
How to use:
- Mix 1 teaspoon of milk, 2 teaspoons of milk cream, and add a few drops of lemon juice in a bowl.
- Stir the ingredients into a runny lotion, and apply it all over your dry patches.
- Leave it on long enough for the lotion to get completely absorbed into the skin.
- Wash it off. It may be convenient to use this remedy before taking a shower.
While a lot of people have reported good results after using this remedy to relieve skin dryness, it does not have enough scientific backing.
8. Try almond oil treatment
Almond oil is loaded with vitamin E, which is one of the most powerful skin-healing nutrients there is. This emollient provides intensive care by deeply moisturizing the dry areas, exhibiting strong antioxidative activity to counter free radical damage, and blocking out UV radiation to keep your skin soft and supple for long. (11)
In fact, many people regard almond oil as one of the top moisturizers for severely dry skin due to its high vitamin E content. (12)(13) However, this remedy lacks scientific support and needs to be validated by more rigorous studies.
How to use:
Warm some almond oil and massage it into dry skin like a regular moisturizer. Make sure that the oil is not too hot by checking its temperature before applying. The gentle heat can stimulate blood circulation and help open your pores to allow the oil to seep into your skin.
9. Hydrate your skin with sunflower seed oil
Sunflower oil is a nutrient-rich oil that can help hydrate dry skin and repair its barrier function without causing redness or irritation, as was observed in a 2012 study.
A lot of general users have reported positive results after using this remedy for dry skin, making it a widely popular remedy on the internet. (14) However, this claim needs to be corroborated by further large-scale studies.
How to use:
Simply massage a little amount of sunflower oil on the dry patches. (15)
10. Use emollients and keep your skin hydrated
Emollients come in a wide variety of water-based or oil-based formulations, such as cream, ointment, or lotion.
You may have to try several different products before you find the perfect fit for your particular skin type and condition. (16) However, ointments and creams are usually a better fit for children and people with sensitive skin than creams as they sting less.
Look for products that contain skin healing ingredients like olive oil, jojoba oil, mineral oil, lactic acid, lanolin, hyaluronic acid, urea, petrolatum, glycerine dimethicone, and shea butter. (17)
Emollients form a protective seal over the skin, which prevents moisture from escaping into the atmosphere, a process known as transepidermal water loss (TEWL).
Long-term emollient therapy is considered a safe and effective treatment for children with atopic dermatitis (18) and for the management of diabetes-induced skin complications such as itchiness and dryness. (19)
How to use:
- Topical therapy for dry skin involves the regular application of an emollient at least twice a day. Ideally, the application should be done after bathing, shaving, or exfoliating, when the pores are open, to facilitate better product absorption.
- Reapply the product every time you wash your skin, after sweating profusely, or whenever you feel its effect is wearing out.
Follow These Preventive Self-Care Tips
Here are a few dos and don’ts to prevent skin dryness.
- Consume ample fluids: Because a large part of the skin is mainly made up of water, it is important to maintain a steady amount of fluids in your body to keep the skin moisturized from within. Older adults are advised to consume 1,500 ml of water a day, which amounts to about nine 8-ounce cups per day. You can also supplement your fluid intake through water-rich fruits and foods.
- Eat healthy: Consume a well-balanced diet, with a special focus on foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids as they help in maintaining and repairing the structural integrity of skin cells.
- Choose the right bathing and skin care products: Go through the list of ingredients before buying soap or skin cleansers to see if they contain any harsh chemicals, alcohol, or dyes, which can further dry out your skin. Always choose gentle, unscented skin cleansers that come with added moisturizers. The same applies to your other skin care products.
- Shave after bathing: Your skin and facial hair become soft and pliable immediately after bathing, which is the best time to shave. A post-bath shave ensures minimal friction against the skin and thus reduces cuts or irritation.
- Dress right: Wear soft, comfortable clothing next to your skin, instead of rough fabrics such as wool.
- Use a humidifier: If your home environment is arid, consider using a humidifier to impart moisture to the air. Make sure to clean it regularly to keep it mold-free.
- Try cold therapy: One easy way to relieve the itchy discomfort of dry skin is by applying a cool compress to the irritated areas. This helps numb the nerve endings in that area temporarily and provide short-term relief.
- Maintain a stable temperature setting in your living space: The skin does not respond well to sudden or drastic fluctuations in temperature, which can often trigger or aggravate skin dryness.
- Wear proper sun protection: Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 on all the exposed areas of your skin before going out or wear protective clothing to cover those areas.
- Use skin-friendly detergents: Choose detergents that do not contain any added color or fragrance to wash your clothes.
- Dry your skin the right way: Once you step out of the shower or bath, pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it with a towel.
- Avoid long baths or showers: Prolonged exposure to water, especially hot water, can strip away the natural lipids of your skin and leave it utterly dry and crinkled. Always use lukewarm water for bathing.
- Do not scratch: Dry skin can be extremely itchy, but you must resist the urge to scratch to avoid further damage. Scratching the itch will only make your skin itch more, and the constant rubbing can rupture the skin barrier.
- Avoid sun exposure during the peak hours: Don’t step out in the sun between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, particularly during summer and spring, when the UV radiation is intense. Prolonged exposure to the harmful ultraviolet radiation of the sun can alter the structure of the tissues and the DNA of the cells in the skin. On exposure to sunlight, the skin cells absorb the radiation and then generate ROS (reactive oxygen species). ROS are detrimental to the skin and can make it dry, sallow, leathery, and rough.
- Limit your alcohol intake: Alcohol works as a diuretic that can drain your body of water and make your skin increasingly dry.
- Say no to tobacco: Tobacco use in any form is to be avoided, as it can dry out your skin.
People who suffer from long-term or severe xerosis often develop scaling and fissures on the skin, mostly due to the constant scratching.
Dry skin is prone to cracking, which paves the way for inflammation and infections. That is why proper skin care is of utmost importance. However, if self-care measures fail to provide relief, you must visit a dermatologist.
The doctor will review your medical history and closely examine your skin to prescribe a suitable ointment or cream. Additional medications may be needed if the dryness stems from systemic illness.