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By Cynthia Bailey MD. This page was updated on Sun, Sep 15, 2019

Dermatologist's Highly Effective Products and Tips to Treat Dry Skin.

Heal dry skin with skin care. Any part of your skin can suffer from dryness. Arm and leg skin often show the signs of dryness first. Hands and feet are often dry, too. Skin on the palms and soles is so thick that dry skin can become rough, cracked and painful if dryness is untreated.

Dry skin indicates that your skin's important barrier is weakened. Vital lipids are being lost and protein is vulnerable to damage. If left untreated, dry skin is prone to eczema, an itchy red rash that crusts, hurts and can become infected. Take good care of your skin to prevent dryness. You can do this by simply using the right skin care.

Can you heal dry skin by drinking enough water?   

Contrary to popular belief, dry skin is not caused by failing to drink enough water except under the most dire cases of dehydration. Drinking water does not sufficiently hydrate your skin any more than taking a bath quenches your thirst. Your body is more complex. Only the most severe dehydration will cause skin to become flaccid and dry.

The only way to fix your dry skin is with your skin care routine. 

Because skin dryness is happening in the outer two layers of your skin, the stratum corneum and epidermis, treatment heals the problem from the outside. How you cleanse your skin and what moisturizers you use are important to healing dry skin.

What is the best skin care to get rid of dry flakey skin on your arms, legs, hands, feet and body?

3 essential steps to healing dry skin:

1. Use only gentle hypoallergenic skin soaps and cleansers. Avoid harsh soaps and cleansers that strip skin's natural oils.

2. Bathe with only warm or tepid water until dry skin is healed. Avoid hot water which will dissolve skin oils just like it dissolves oil on dirty pots and pans.

3. Apply deeply hydrating skin creams and lotions within the magic 3 minutes after toweling skin dry after bathing. This locks water soaked into your skin during your bath or shower. Skin hydration is key to healing dry skin. Use rich moisturizers, ideally made with botanical oils that help replenish lost skin lipids. Also important is that you use only hypoallergenic moisturizers to avoid lifelong skin allergies to fragrance and harsh skin care preservatives.  

Can glycolic acid and exfoliation help prevent dry skin?

Once your dry skin is healed, you can strengthen your skin's barrier by using alpha hydroxy acid products. My favorite AHA for body care is glycolic acid. Glycolic acid changes the structure of the protective dead cell layer, making it more durable and compact to help reduce the risk of dryness. Professional-grade glycolic acid moisturizers will also stimulate your skin's production of hyaluronic acid to help your skin stay supple and moist from the inside out. The best glycolic acid products to use for dry skin are moisturizers that contain high, professional-grade levels of glycolic acid.

Healthy body, arm and leg skin without dryness also benefits from occasional physical exfoliation to keep skin polished to a satiny sheen. This can be done twice weekly in the shower using rough shower cloths, sponges and mitts. Feet can benefit from a foot file to reduce rough skin build-up. Excessively thick skin on feet and hands is prone to painful cracks. 

Dry skin on the scalp and upper back may actually be seborrheic dermatitis!

I've seen so many patients over my 30+ year dermatology career who think the red flakey skin on their scalp and back is dry skin. It's not. These are not areas of skin prone to dryness because they have abundant oil glands. 'Dry skin' here is often seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff). It needs special care including the use of pyrithione zinc soaps and cleansers to fight seborrhea.  It's an easy fix!

Remember, you always get the best results when you use Complete Skin Care. Dr. Bailey's Complete Skin Care includes the 4 essential steps of

  1. Cleanse
  2. Correct
  3. Hydrate
  4. Protect

Build your complete skin care routine by choosing the right products for the 4 essential steps in skin care:

  1. CLEANSE with non-drying soaps and cooler water temperatures. Cleansers such as my Naturally Best Bar Soap, Natural Shower Gel  or VaniCream Cleansing Bar  are excellent choices. Once dry skin has healed, maintain healthy skin by using an exfoliating shower cloth, such as the Salux Cloth, or sponge or mitt twice a week with an exfoliating cleanser such as my Triple Action Exfoliating Cleanser.  
  2. CORRECT and HYDRATE by applying deeply hydrating moisturizers made with botanical oils that replenish lost skin lipids such as my Natural Lotion or Natural Butter. These products are made with organic botanical ingredients rich in vitamins, antioxidants and hydrating botanical components such as glycerin.  When dry skin has healed, help strengthen skin barrier with my Glycolic Body Lotion. Get my Triple Action Cleanser, Salux Cloth and Glycolic Acid Body Lotion in my Ultra-Fast Body Smoothing Triple Action Kit. Delicate skin of the neck and chest may even benefit from deeply hydrating ingredients in my Instantly Luminous Multi-Action Serum, Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy  and Naturally Hydrating Pore Minimizing Toner. I use these on my own neck and chest skin. Dry skin on the scalp and upper back may actually be seborrheic dermatitis. CORRECT AND CLEANSE in one step with Foaming Zinc Cleanser or Calming Zinc Soap. 
  3. HYDRATE with deeply hydrating moisturizers. Apply your moisturizers within 3 minutes of toweling skin dry.
  4. PROTECT with mineral zinc oxide sunscreen, because sun damage leads to skin thinning and dryness. It’s why sun-damaged skin looks like “an old leather purse”.

Dermatologist's help for picking skin care products for your skin care made easy!

Each of my products has a colored band on the bottom of the label. You will notice blue, green and oranges bands.

A BLUE BAND tells you that people with the most sensitive skin are typically able to tolerate these products.

AN ORANGE BAND indicates that a product is made with ingredients that may be irritating to sensitive skin. These include powerful actives such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid or other ingredients that can irritate sensitive skin. Please think about how your skin might tolerate these ingredients. The product formulations are technically hypoallergenic by dermatologic standards, but they can be irritating. Some of these important key active ingredients, such as salicylic acid and and pyrithione zinc, have a very small potential to be allergens for people with very sensitive skin.

A GREEN BAND tells you I created this product formulation using natural, and often organic, ingredients. If I have included essential oil essences, I have formulated the product overall to include low concentrations that are below that typically needed to create skin allergy.

Of course, as a dermatologist, I know that when it comes to each person’s unique tendency for skin allergy and irritation, there is no guarantee that your skin will respond as predicted. I try to give you enough information on each product page to make careful decisions for your skin care choices so you can better understand your skin and it’s needs over time.

Build a great skin care routine to target skin problems or maintain healthy skin from my kits and products. You will see and feel results almost right away!