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The Dry Skin Plan

Soothe your itchy, flaky skin with our super-hydrating, skin-saving tips!

| December 15th, 2011
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The Dry Skin Plan

Dry skin isn't fun. The dryness, flaking, itching and a feeling of tightness it brings on is far from comfortable.

Whether the blame belongs to cold or dry air, over-washing or those long, hot showers that feel so good in the moment, the cause is the same: the wearing away and depletion of the protective skin barrier. For fast relief, you want to treat dry skin in a variety of ways, which tackle all of the major triggers.

Check out these expert tips on how to get your soft, supple skin back.

GALLERY: Dry Skin Products for You

Use the Right Ingredients

Moisturizers aren’t all created equal: Some treat the root cause of the dryness, while others may temporarily mask or even worsen symptoms.  “Ceramides are natural fats that are depleted in dry, itchy skin,” explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical dermatology research at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. Look to these lipid molecules as your most effective tool to rebuild the skin barrier, along with hyaluronic acid and glycerin, which bind water to skin.

Steer clear of dehydrating alcohol and fragrance-heavy products—both of which can dry your skin. Also watch for phenol and menthol in lip balms, which can result in more irritation than hydration, adds Zeichner.

QUIZ: How Healthy Is Your Skin?

Slip on Some Tights

“Wearing tights or hosiery can help prevent dry skin during the winter season by protecting legs from cold and wind,” says New York University assistant professor of clinical dermatology, Rebecca Baxt, M.D. But that’s not all: The close-fitting fabric retains moisture in low-humidity conditions, keeping your skin more hydrated. Look for soft cotton and spandex blends for greatest comfort, and stay away from wools that can scratch against dry skin and even cause rashes.

Hydrate As You Cleanse

Long, hot showers dry out skin faster than you can say “sahara,” but even we have to admit that the standard expert advice to stick to lukewarm showers under 10 minutes isn’t exactly appealing in the depths of bone-chilling winter. Other skin-saving strategies include switching from shaving cream to a conditioner to shave your legs, which doubles as a budget-savvy way to use up that extra conditioner left after you’ve gone through the partner shampoo. Also, try a soap-free cleanser like Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash or Neova Antioxidant Cleansing Milk to wash your face without stripping your skin of its natural protective barrier. And once out of the shower, moisturize as quickly as possible, while skin is still damp and apt to absorb as much hydration as possible.

MORE: Dry Skin, Decoded

You can also slip into a soothing bath that’s rich in hydration by adding a few tablespoons of emollient olive oil. Oatmeal is another bath additive that has long been used to treat skin conditions ranging from dry skin and poison ivy reactions to the chicken pox. Oats contain hydrating fats that calm and nourish skin, according to Zeichner. You’ll want to use colloidal oatmeal, which stays on the surface of water for maximum contact with skin and can be found at your local drugstore.

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