The list of culprits that can cause dry skin is a long one, from daily bathing habits (think hot showers and scrubbing yourself dry with a towel) and wicked winter weather to a lack of natural oils in your skin as you age.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to visit a dermatologist to heal your dry skin. Instead, consider adding a natural remedy to your skin care routine at home. In fact, the ingredients for these dry-skin remedies might already be in your kitchen.
Why Opt for a Natural Dry Skin Remedy Rather Than Buy a Product
Given the countless skin products available, a natural remedy may be worth trying, says Christine Lopez, MD, a dermatologist and vice-chair of the department of dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
Natural oils and remedies tend to be pure, Dr. Lopez says, which makes them a better choice for many people. “Other over-the-counter products can have a ton of ingredients in them — they not only contain the active moisturizing products, but they also have preservatives.” That’s often the case for water-based products. These, along with products that contain alcohol and fragrances, can cause irritation or an allergic reaction, or dry out your skin.
It’s often a good idea to keep it simple when it comes to beauty care, especially for people with allergies or a very sensitive complexion. Unlike water-based lotions and creams or those containing preservatives, pure oils have a natural base, making them great dry-skin remedies.
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How Natural Remedies Can Help Soothe Dry, Irritated Skin
Your skin naturally produces oil, called sebum, which helps protect the skin from moisture loss, but everyday actions — such as forgetting to put on moisturizer or washing your hands with a drying soap — can strip natural oils from your skin. For people without acne, which involves overproduction of sebum (and for whom extra oil would provide the opposite of the desired effect), using oils can help restore skin’s sheen and protective barrier.
There are many ways to reap the moisturizing benefits of oils, either on their own or with other ingredients, to make a DIY nourishing mask or an exfoliating rub. Lopez recommends that castor oil, lavender oil, and avocado oil may be good natural remedies for dry skin, again, so long as you do not have acne.
Coconut oil is another oil you may have in your kitchen cabinet and may also be good choice for those not prone to acne. People with atopic dermatitis — a type of eczema and an allergic skin condition characterized by dryness and itching — saw excellent results when they used virgin coconut oil on their skin, according to a study published in January 2014 in the International Journal of Dermatology.
Aloe vera, a plant with natural healing properties, can also be infused in oils and used as a natural moisturizer.
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10 Natural, DIY Remedies to Moisturize Dry Skin
A simple way to use your favorite oil (in its purest form), is to drizzle the oil into warm bath water and treat yourself to a short soak; gently pat your skin dry afterward to avoid rubbing all the oil off.
You can also try these natural remedies:
1. Whip up an Olive Oil Cleanser to Soothe Dry Skin
A great natural oil to use is olive oil, which works as a natural cleanser and moisturizer, says Brandy Crompton, a licensed aesthetician and manager of LeBliss Salon and Spa in Louisville, Kentucky. “Just rub the oil into your skin and drape a warm, damp cloth over your face until it cools,” Crompton says, “then wipe away the excess oil.” Olive oil is a good choice as a cleanser because it won’t strip your skin’s natural oils, but it will clean your skin, she adds.
2. DIY a Rich, Creamy Avocado Mask
Creating a homemade mask of avocado is another natural way to soothe dry skin. Crompton suggests pureeing half an avocado and mixing it with a teaspoon of olive oil; you can also add a tablespoon (tbsp) of honey for very dry skin. Apply the mask to your face, leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes, and then wash it off. Your skin should feel moisturized, but you can double up on the hydrating effects by applying your regular moisturizer as well.
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3. Make a Natural Olive Oil and Sugar Scrub
Create a naturally moisturizing exfoliating scrub using a combination of olive oil and sugar. Combine ½ cup of sugar with 2 tbsp of olive oil, Crompton says. If you want, you can also add an essential oil like lavender, which adds a natural fragrance and can promote relaxation. Gently rub the scrub into your skin, and then wash it off. Last, use a soothing moisturizer to lock in the benefits of freshly exfoliated skin.
4. Create an Easy Oatmeal Soak to Calm Your Skin
Adding a cup of oatmeal to a warm bath can naturally rehydrate dry skin, Lopez says. “The oat product itself is soothing,” Lopez explains, and it helps your skin retain moisture from the bath water.
5. Exfoliate Your Face With a Homemade Oatmeal Honey Mask
Oatmeal also makes a great exfoliator or mask. Mix 2 tbsp of oats with a tablespoon of honey and a dash of water. Crompton suggests warming up the mixture, then rubbing it into your skin. You can use it just to exfoliate and wash it off right away, or leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes as a soothing, hydrating mask.
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6. Apply Coconut Oil Before Bedtime
“Coconut oil becomes a solid at room temperature, so use it as a moisturizing cream at bedtime or anytime,” recommends Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Los Angeles-based Dermatology Institute and Skin Care Center. “For chapped heels and hands, apply the oil then layer with thick socks or nonlatex gloves.”
7. Add Your Favorite Oil to Your Bath
“Natural oils are great for moisturizing the skin and helping to recreate the natural skin barrier, which is often damaged by frequent hand and face washing with water and drying soaps that strip the skin if its natural protective oils,” Dr. Shainhouse says. Aside from olive oil or coconut oil, you can test out other natural oils that are free from irritants, including jojoba, argan, and avocado oils. To use, Shainhouse recommends adding a few tablespoons of the desired oil under running bathwater. You can also apply a small amount to your skin post-shower to keep is soft and moist.
8. Use Milk Compresses for Irritated Skin
“Milk has natural anti-inflammatory properties,” says Shainhouse. “It also contains lactic acid, a mild, natural exfoliant.” Shainhouse recommends using these compresses for your skin for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. It’s especially helpful for irritated skin that’s itchy, too. Lactic acid can sting cracked skin, though, so use with caution, per the American Academy of Dermatology.
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9. Consider a Fruit Enzyme Cleanser or Exfoliant
Fruit enzymes can be lifesavers during dry-skin season. “These alpha-hydroxy acids are great for gently exfoliating the superficial layer of dulling dead skin cells on the face and body,” says Shainhouse. She recommends using a fruit enzyme–infused wash or mask twice per week. Some good fruit enzymes to look for include pineapple, pumpkin, and papaya.
10. Apply Aloe Vera to Dry, Irritated Skin
While often thought of as a remedy for sunburn relief, aloe vera gel can be helpful during the dry winter months, too. It works by alleviating redness and irritation related to excess dryness, and it can even decrease signs of aging, as well as acne breakouts, according to previous research. But Shainhouse cautions that some people can develop allergic contact dermatitis to aloe, so you may want to perform a patch test first before applying it to a large area of skin.
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5 Expert Tips for Avoiding a Dry Skin Relapse
There are other steps you can take to protect your skin and help keep it from drying out.
- Make moisturizing a part of your daily skin care routine. As soon as you step out of the shower, slather your skin from head to toe with a rich, creamy product (the thicker it is, the richer it is), notes the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Develop other skin-friendly bathing habits. You should also avoid hot showers, limit baths to 10 minutes, and opt for a mild body wash rather than a drying bar soap, per the academy.
- Avoid exposing your skin to harsh chemicals. That includes alcohol and apple cider vinegar. These ingredients can worsen dry skin, and even cause burns in some cases, Shainhouse says.
- Drink plenty of water. Boosting your water intake helps hydrate your body and moisturize your skin from the inside out.
- Dress appropriately for the weather. This goes beyond wearing sunscreen in the summer to help protect against not only sunburns but also skin cancer. “Remember to put on your gloves before you go outside into the winter air, to prevent dryness and chapping,” Shainhouse says.