Whether due to aging, an underlying skin condition, or environmental factors, dry skin can be uncomfortable and itchy. There are a range of treatments available to treat dry skin at home, but which are the most effective?
Dry skin, also called xerosis, is skin that lacks moisture in its outer layer. If left untreated, dry skin can crack and become infected. Maintaining moisture in dry skin is important, but some store-bought treatments can be expensive or ineffective. This article explores home remedies for dry skin and examines the scientific evidence supporting these claims.
home remedies for dry skin
There are a variety of home remedies that a person can use to relieve dry skin. Most of the approaches below can be used as moisturizers unless otherwise specified. The best way to use a moisturizer is to apply it liberally to damp skin after a bath and let it soak in.
1. Sunflower seed oil
A 2013 study found that sunflower seed oil improved hydration when used as a moisturizer on participants’ arms. The same study found that olive oil actually damaged the skin’s barrier, suggesting that not all natural oils are suitable for use as moisturizers.
2. Coconut oil
Another natural oil that works well for treating dry skin is coconut oil. A 2014 study found that coconut oil is as safe and effective as petroleum jelly for treating dry skin. It has been found to significantly improve skin hydration and increase the number of lipids (fats) on the surface of the skin. As 2016 research explains, coconut oil contains saturated fatty acids that have emollient properties. An emollient is a fat or oil that acts as a moisturizer by filling in the gaps in dry skin, making it smooth.
3. Oatmeal bath
Oatmeal is another natural ingredient that can help treat dry skin. Adding powdered oatmeal to a bath or using creams that contain oatmeal can help relieve dry skin. A 2015 study found oatmeal extracts to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, suggesting it may help treat dry skin.
Some studies suggest that honey can be used as a home treatment to relieve dry skin. Various studies have in fact found that honey is:
These are all qualities that suggest honey is an ideal home treatment for relieving dry skin. It is completely natural and can be applied directly to the skin.
5. Aloe vera
Aloe vera gel can help relieve dry skin. A person with dry skin on their hands or feet can apply aloe vera gel and cover the affected area with a sock or glove. People may prefer to do this before going to bed and leave the gel on overnight. If the dry skin is on another part of the body, liberally applying aloe vera gel and letting it soak in can have a similar effect.
Moisturizing regularly after washing can help prevent dry skin. Applying emollients and moisturizers regularly after bathing helps prevent dry skin. People can also prevent dry skin by avoiding things that can trigger dryness or irritation, including:
scratch the skin
excessive use of air conditioning
shaving with a dull razor or without shaving gel
bathing or showering too often
rubbing the skin too hard when drying with a towel
bathing or showering in water that is too hot
using lotions containing alcohol
wearing clothes that rub the skin
frequent contact with detergents
sitting under direct heat from a radiator or open fire
stay outside in windy weather without covering your skin.
When to consult a doctor
If environmental factors or aging are not the cause of dry skin, the person may have an underlying skin condition. If a person thinks this is the case, they should talk to a doctor. If home remedies and store-bought moisturizers do not relieve symptoms of dry skin, a person can also consult a pharmacist for over-the-counter treatments.
It is important to keep the skin hydrated and treat dry skin as soon as possible. If left untreated, dry skin can lead to the following symptoms:
a bacterial infection
Redness, swelling, or pus may indicate a bacterial infection. If a person thinks their skin is infected, they should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Agero, AL, & Verallo-Rowell, VM (2004, September). A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis [Abstract]. Dermatitis, 15(3), 109-116
Brooks, J., Cowdell, F., Ersser, SJ, & Gardiner, ED (2017, January 12). Skin cleansing and emolliating for older people: A quasi-experimental pilot study [Abstract]. International Journal of Older People Nursing, 12(3)
Danby, SG, AlEnezi, T., Sultan, A., Lavender, T., Chittock, J., Brown, K., … Cork, MJ (2012, September 20). Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: Implications for neonatal skin care [Abstract]. Pediatric Dermatology, 30(1), 42-50
Ediriweera, ERHSS, & Premarathna, NYS (2012, April-June). Medicinal and cosmetic uses of bee’s honey – A review. An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda, 33(2), 178-182
Reynertson, KA, Garay, M., Nebus, J., Chon, S., Kaur, S., Mahmood, K., … Southall, MD (2015, January). Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin [Abstract]. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 14(1), 43-48