Dry skin can be caused by a number of factors. It can lead to itching, irritation, tightness, cracked skin, and possibly even bleeding. Luckily, there are many dermatologist approved and science-backed home remedies to combat dry skin.
1. Petroleum Jelly
The most common brand name for petroleum jelly is Vaseline. It is an effective moisturizer that doesn’t contain any irritants or fragrances, which makes it safe for sensitive skin. In fact, Harry Dao, MD, chair of dermatology at Loma Linda University Health says that brand name Vaseline is one of his favorite products to recommend for people suffering from dry skin.
Petroleum jelly is made up of a blend of safe mineral oils and waxes, devoid of ingredients that may worsen dry skin or eczema. It is very effective at creating a protective barrier for the skin. “Just as a riverbed cracks when water evaporates out too quickly, the skin can also crack and become excessively dry if its barrier is impaired,” Dao says.
A 2016 study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology proved that petroleum jelly reduces the amount of moisture that evaporates from the skin by a whopping 98%.
Dao says the best time to apply petroleum jelly is right after bathing, since it is very effective at locking in moisture, as it works by forming a barrier for the skin to prevent the loss of water through evaporation.
2. Oatmeal bath
According to Michele Farber, MD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, oatmeal baths are a great way to soothe irritated skin.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology showed that colloidal oatmeal (which is essentially oats that have been finely ground down) is effective at reducing skin dryness, roughness, and itchiness. This is because oatmeal helps repair the skin barrier, is anti inflammatory, and has antioxidant properties, according to Farber.
How to use an oatmeal bath to soothe dry skin:
- Purchase an oatmeal bath product. Farber says Aveeno Colloidal Oatmeal Soothing Bath Treatment is a favorite of her patients. Alternatively, you can DIY it. Get some whole oats, preferably organic, and grind them into a fine powder using a food processor or coffee grinder.
- Draw the bath with lukewarm water, not hot water, since that can dry out your skin even more.
- Soak in the bath for 15-20 minutes, long enough for the oatmeal to work its magic/
- At the end of the bath, Rinse the skin with fresh lukewarm water if you feel like there is too much oatmeal residue on the skin.
- Apply a moisturizer once you’re out of the bath to lock the moisture in.
3. Coconut oil
Coconut oil, particularly virgin coconut oil (meaning expelled mechanically from the coconut, no chemicals added) is effective at locking in moisture. It can also create a protective barrier to prevent moisture from evaporating from the skin, according to a 2014 study.
Furthermore, coconut oil also has antibacterial properties. This is great to ward off infections since extra dry skin may get cracks or cuts that may be prone to infection. This is especially helpful for people whose dry skin can lead to a painful skin condition called eczema, according to a 2008 study.
You can apply coconut oil after you bathe to lock in moisture. But Farber also suggests applying the oil before you shower to prevent moisture loss while you bathe. But if you have face or body acne, don’t use coconut oil on those areas, as it may make the acne worse. Additionally, Dao says to be mindful if you have extra sensitive skin, since you might be allergic to coconut’s natural fragrance. Justpay close attention to the label of the product you buy and make sure they aren’t adding any additional fragrances.
4. Fragrance-free lotions
If petroleum jelly or coconut oil are too greasy for your liking, spring for an unscented lotion Farber says to choose a cream or ointment that is a thicker consistency since they will typically keep your moisturized more effectively for longer.
Dao says he likes to recommend creams that have ceramides in them, which are lipids that help the skin lock in moisture. One option here is the brand Cerave, and Dao highly praises the Cerave Moisturizing Cream which is free of common irritants and fragrance, so it’s great for people with sensitive skin.
In general, look for fragrance-free, unscented products. Also, listen to your body. Just because something is supposed to be fragrance-free and suitable for sensitive skin, it still might irritate your dry skin. In this case, ask your dermatologist what might be a better fit for you.
5. Change your bathing habits
If you’re taking long, hot showers everyday, you are stripping your skin’s natural moisture away. According to Farber, hot showers and baths are a major dry skin culprit. She advises sticking to shorter, lukewarm showers, around 98.6º fahrenheit. Water over 105º can be irritating and drying.
She also says you should apply your moisturizer of choice as soon as you get out of the shower. Or, as mentioned earlier, you can even try applying coconut oil before you step into the shower.
Additionally, avoid scented soaps while you bathe. Farber says soaps with sulfates or harsh surfactants will disrupt the skin barrier and cause moisture loss, so be sure to check the ingredients list before buying and using a body soap.
The bottom line
If you’ve tried these home remedies and still are experiencing dry, itchy, painful skin, Dao urges you to see a dermatologist to make sure that there isn’t something more serious going on. Dry skin that won’t go away can be indicative of more serious skin conditions or internal health conditions.