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Dry Skin? 25 of My Best Itchy Skin Fixes

How to fix dry hands, feet, body, face & lips


Close shot of woman putting cream on shoulder
Bambu Productions/Iconica/Getty Images
Dry Skin? 25 of My Best Itchy Skin Fixes
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Humidifiers are great for dry skin & furnace heat

The humidifier we use in our NYC apartment


Dry, itchy skin can be unbearable. Dry skin can happen any time during the year, but is most prevalent in winter (hence the term, "winter itch"). Find out why your skin tends to be dry in winter and how to solve dry hands, feet, body, face and lips year-round.

Why Do I Suffer From Dry Skin in the Winter?

In winter, low temperatures, low humidity and strong, harsh winds deplete skin of its natural lipid layer, which keeps the skin from drying out. The dry air from furnaces and other heating sources also suck the moisture out of skin. To keep skin soft and supple, your goal is not to add moisture to skin, but to keep moisture in. These 25 tips show you how to do this.

See How to Tell If You Have Dry Skin.

Keep Water Lukewarm, Not Hot

Hot water robs skin of moisture causing dry skin, so it's best to shower in lukewarm water. If you can't bear this rule -- there simply are winter days that I cannot -- try to keep your showers short and try showering only once per day. This also means skipping hot tubs (another rule I simply cannot bear). The hot, hot temperature, combined with drying chemicals, is torture on dry skin.

The same rule applies to hand-washing: Wash hands in lukewarm, never hot, water (this is a rule I firmly abide by). If your skin turns red, the water is simply too hot.

Moisturize After Showers or Hand Washing

Your skin will tell you when it's dry. If your skin feels tight and taut, it's time to add moisture. There are so many tips to moisturizing skin that I created an article on it.

See Body Moisturizer Tips: How to Keep Skin Moisturized.

Layer Creams Over Oils

Body creams are meant to keep moisture in, but they don't add moisture to the skin quite like oils do. This is why I love to apply body oils (coconut oil and almond oil are my favorites) and then when that's soaked in, I'll apply a cream.

For the face, consider cleansing with an oil cleanser. I list my favorites in Best Cleansing Oils for the Face.

Exfoliate on a Weekly or Semi-Weekly Basis

Moisturizer is much more effective on properly exfoliated skin. Use a salt or sugar scrub in the shower and exfoliate your face with a mild scrub made for the face at least once a week.

Here's a tip I use during the winter months: Apply extra virgin coconut oil on your freshly cleansed face. Use a warm, wet washcloth to massage the oil into the skin. This works to exfoliate and moisturize. You can also use this method on your body. Add sugar or salt to the oil to make your own scrub.

Dry brushing your skin before you shower is also very helpful to relieve super dry skin. "If you dry-brush on a daily basis, you'll probably notice a difference within a week--especially if you follow it with moisturizer," says Vivianne Varcia-Tunon of ESPA spas to Allure magazine.

You can follow the dry brushing with a homemade body scrub. Simply combine 2 parts sugar (or salt) and 1 part oil (any oil in your kitchen will work -- even olive oil, but I prefer extra virgin coconut oil), and massage into skin in a circular motion. Rinse off in the tub. I include recipes in How to Make Salt and Sugar Scrubs.


Invest in a Humidifier

Ever notice how some older people in desert climates look like leather? The moisture in the air is actually good for skin. If you live in a low-humidity climate or you are around furnaces in the winter, humidifiers can be the perfect skin savers.

I once read that your skin needs more than 30 percent humidity to stay properly moisturized. A room heated by a furnace can have as little as 10 percent moisture. In the winter, consider sleeping with a humidifier in your bedroom. Keep doors closed so the moist air doesn't escape the room.

Learn more about my favorite humidifier in Suffer From Dry Skin During Winter? Invest in a Humidifier

How to Baby Your Face

You want to use special cleansers and masks formulated for the face. Don't cleanse your face with a body soap. 

Dry facial skin can be ashen, scaly or super taut. Baby your face using these tips:

Skip the Drying Soaps

Soaps can be drying. Stick with a creamy moisturizing cleanser that contains glycerin or petrolatum, such as Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Wash for the body (buy from Amazon). For the face, look for cleansers made for dry skin. I like Pond's (my current drugstore pick) for the face because I can wipe it off without having to use tap water, which is full of harsh minerals (buy from Amazon).

Extra tip: Simply can't skip the bath? Skip the bubbles, which can contain harsh foaming ingredients and opt for bath oils or oatmeal scrubs, which are great for soothing itchy skin.

Baby Your Hands

Hands and feet can suffer terribly from dry, itchy skin. Put on moisturizer and gloves BEFORE you head outdoors in the winter, and consider lathering up your feet in thick moisturizer and sleeping in cotton socks at night.

How To Soften Dry, Cracked Heels

Dry, cracked feet are never sexy. To keep feet soft, cover feet in a thick moisturizer, wrap feet in Saran Wrap, then pull on a pair of socks for a couple hours. Try to sit or lie down while the moisturizer soaks in or risk sliding into a full split and pulling your groin muscles. The same treatment can be done on hands, except try plastic bags and keep hands in a pair of socks. A half-hour should do you.

To get rid of dry heel syndrome, try this 5-step process I cobbled together and use myself from time-to-time: How To Soften Dry, Cracked Heels.

Don't Forget Your Lips

Licking your lips will not moisturize them and instead will help dry them out. Lips retain less moisture than other parts of the body, so they tend to dry out more quickly. A simple lip balm helps but if you have the bucks, try: Qtica Intense Lip Therapy Balm (buy from Amazon).

My favorite lips trick is one I learned from "Seventeen" magazine when I was in high school. It works brilliantly. See How to Get Rid of Scaly Lips. Also check out My Amazing Brown Sugar Lip Scrub Recipe.

Wondering if Chapstick is addictive? I answer that question in Is Lip Balm Addictive?

Protect Your Face, Too

If you have super-duper sensitive skin, consider avoiding rinsing your face with tap water, which can contain harsh minerals that are especially drying to the skin (Dr. Dennis Gross once told me New York water contains a lot of harsh minerals, while Seattle water, for example, does not. Go figure). Instead use a cold cream like Pond's to cleanse your face or use bottled spring water.

Did you know you can make your own cold cream? It's so easy. Get the recipe: How to Make Your Own Cold Cream.

Consider Fish Oil Pills

New studies show omega-3 fish oil pills (buy from Amazon) may soothe super dry skin. Patients who took fish oils pills in a study reported in Allure magazine, saw significant results within a few weeks. "You can see, within six weeks, the skin, hair and nails improve markedly," according to skin expert Dr. Andrew Weil in Allure. Ever since I started taking fish oil pills in March, 2007, I have received numerous compliments on how amazing my skin looks. So there you have it.

More on dry skin:

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