Dry Skin? 12 Best Tips for Soft Skin

Combat Dry, Itchy Skin

Close shot of woman putting cream on shoulder
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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 the skin. To keep skin soft and supple, your goal is not to add moisture to the skin, but to keep moisture in. These 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, try to keep your showers short and try showering only once per day. This also means skipping hot tubs. 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. 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.

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 it's a good idea to use body oil, then when that's soaked in, apply a cream.

For the face, consider cleansing with an oil cleanser.

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.

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 and massage into skin in a circular motion. Rinse off in the tub.

More:

  • See "How to Exfoliate" for tons of useful information on exfoliating your body and your face.
  • My list of the best facial scrubs
  • Best scrubs for the body

Invest in a Humidifier

Living in dry climates can deplete your skin of moisture. Adding a humidifier to your home can help increase the moisture, making your skin softer.

Learn more 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:

  • Cleanse your face with a cleanser formulated for dry skin.
  • Use a facial mask once at week.
  • Exfoliate your face using a facial scrub every couple days. 

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. For the face, look for cleansers made for dry skin.

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.

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.

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. 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 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.

More on dry skin:

  • How to Tell If You Have Dry Skin
  • Face Mask & Scrub Recipes for Dry, Chapped Skin
  • How to Tell What Type of Skin You Have