Got ashy, patchy, red, peeling, itchy, flaking or just plain ‘ol uncomfortable skin? Regardless of your exact skin ailment, dry, itchy skin can drive you insane. And unfortunately, slathering on moisturizers can only help so much.
If your condition is truly troubling you, you may want to make a dermatologist appointment (especially since there are some conditions that no amount of home TLC can fix).
Here are some top home skin-soothers you can give a try:
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1. Don’t use anything that says “soap.”
Washing your dry skin with soap and water strips away the skin’s protective natural oils along with dirt and grime.
The natural solution: Switch to cleansing creams, gentle skin cleansers or bath or shower gels with moisturizers, not harsh soap. Your skin should feel soft and smooth after washing, never tight or dry. Experiment with several brands until you find the right one.
“Use fragrance-free, non-detergent, neutral-pH products to cleanse your skin,” says Monica K. Bedi, M.D., a Florida-based dermatologist.
An extra natural tip: Try aloe or a tepid water-oatmeal mixture on the irritated area.
2. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
The problem: About 75% of dry skin problems can be solved with one step, says dermatologist Morgan P. O’Donoghue: “After bathing in tepid water, moisturize immediately to help trap water in the surface cells, then pat dry.”
The natural solution: Try using thicker creams – like Eucerin, Cetaphil or Lubriderm – which can work better than lotions. Also, look for cosmetics with moisturizers. If your skin is extremely dry, apply cocoa butter, almond or vitamin E oil right after your shower or bath, while it’s still moist. Oil has more staying power than moisturizers and prevents water evaporation.
An extra natural tip: Ditch that washcloth – it may irritate very dry skin. Instead, use your hands, a sponge, or a VERY soft facial brush.
3. Moisturize Your Home
The problem: Many homes, especially during the cooler months, can create an environment that isn’t very kind to skin, considering the drying effects of drier air and having home heaters on.
The natural solution: Keep your home between 68 and 75 degrees, and use a portable humidifier to maintain moisture levels at 40%-50%. Note that tabletop humidifiers work for a single room, but require frequent fillings, sometimes several times a day, and also need careful cleaning to prevent growth of bacteria and fungi in the tank. Put it in your bedroom to hydrate your skin as you sleep.
An extra natural tip: If you have severely dry skin or live in an arid climate, consider installing a humidifier that’s built into your forced air heating and cooling system. It’s costlier but may be worth it in the long run.
4. Watch What You Wear
The problem: Some fabrics allow the skin to breathe easier than other. Also, certain detergents can irritate sensitive, dry skin.
The natural solution: Wear more cotton and silk, which allow for more air flow to and from your skin.
An extra natural tip: Use fragrance-free detergents that won’t irritate. Feel free to skip fabric softeners, unless their specifically made for sensitive skin.
5. Take Breaks From The Sun
The problem: Besides skin cancer, those warm rays can also cause dryness, wrinkles, rashes and blisters.
The natural solution: Apply sunscreen liberally to all exposed areas 30 minutes before you go outside, even on foggy or cloudy days. Don’t forget your ears, hands and the back of your neck – and to apply regularly. Remember that darker complexions aren’t exempt from being sun smart – not only can Blacks suffer from too much sun, too, but certain conditions, such a melanoma, can be more fatal to them than other groups.
When you’re shopping for sunscreen, look for a UVA/UVB sunscreen with Parsol 1789, titanium oxide or zinc oxide, and a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Avoid direct sun exposure, especially between noon and 3 p.m. If you must be outside, cover up and wear a shading hat or carry a parasol.
An extra natural tip: Many moisturizers also contain sunscreen, which hydrate and protect skin in one easy step.
6. Eat Your Way To More Comfortable Skin
The problem: Many people, especially adults, don’t get in nearly the recommended amounts of various nutrients they need for healthier bodies…and healthier skin.
The natural solution: A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts is good for you inside and out. In fact, certain foods, like avocados (with inflammation-reducing niacin), can actually improve your complexion. Be sure to also eat yellow and orange produce, such as carrots, cantaloupes and apricots, which are full of healthful antioxidants and vitamin A, which fight skin-aging free radicals. If you don’t eat a balanced diet, take a daily multivitamin (but eating healthier is the preferred solution).
An extra natural tip: Avoid alcohol and caffeine because they’re diuretics, and cause the body and skin cells to lose fluids and important minerals.
7. Adopt A Healthier Lifestyle
The problem: Daily bad health habits, particularly smoking, don’t do your skin any favors. For example, nicotine constricts blood vessels, including the tiny capillaries that feed the skin, which deprives it of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive.
The natural solution: Don’t smoke, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep (7-8 hours every night). How does sleep help your skin? It’s when skin cells renew themselves best.
An extra natural tip: Don’t forget your daily workout: Exercise boosts circulation and encourages blood flow to all parts of the body.
8. Don’t Forget Your Feet
The problem: Low humidity depletes skin of its natural lipid layer, which prevents your skin from drying out.
The natural solution: To counteract the lack of moisture in the air, try coating your feet in thick lotion and sleeping in cotton socks at night.
An extra natural tip: For ultra-dry skin, cover your feet in a creamy lotion, wrap them in Saran Wrap and pull on a pair of socks for a couple hours.
9. Seek Medical Treatment
If the above tips don’t help, or your particular skin problem seems serious, see a board-certified dermatologist. Skin experts agree that you should seek immediately help if you have one or more of the following symptoms:
• Your skin doesn’t improve in spite of your best efforts.
• Dryness and itching are severe enough to keep you awake.
• You have open sores or infections from scratching.
• You have large areas of scaling or peeling skin.
Why? The underlying causes of the above symptoms could be diabetes, low thyroid condition, liver or kidney disease, or cancer, especially lymphoma.