The outer layer of your skin works like a self-oiled machine, but sometimes oil production can’t keep up with demand. Trouble occurs when you shower a lot, use skin-drying soap, or live in a house where the air is Saharan. What’s the best refreshment for parched skin? Most moisturizers (which don’t actually add moisture to the skin but serve to lock in moisture that’s already there) will do the trick. Or try one of the home remedies below.
What you can do for dry skin
• Give your skin a milk bath. The lactic acid in milk exfoliates dead skin cells and may also increase skin’s ability to hold in moisture. Soak a washcloth in cold milk. Lay the cloth on any area of skin that is particularly dry or irritated. Leave the cloth there for five minutes, and when you rinse off the milk, do it gently, so some of the lactic acid stays on your skin.
• To soften rough patches of skin, fill your tub with warm water and add two cups of Epsom salt, then climb in and soak for a few minutes. While your skin is still wet, you can also rub handfuls of Epsom salt on the rough areas to exfoliate the skin. You’ll be amazed at just how good your skin feels when you get out. If you have some, you can also add a few strips of dried seaweed to your bath to boost the softening effect.
• Apply aloe vera gel to help your dry skin heal more quickly. It contains acids that eat away dead skin cells. To obtain the gel, cut off a leaf at the base and split it open with a knife. Scrape out the gel with a spoon.
• Use a moisturizer that contains alpha-hydroxy acids. These remove loose, flaky skin cells, leaving the skin softer. Lotions that contain urea have a similar effect. Pit an avocado, puree the pulp, and pat it on your face as a moisturizing mask. The oil acts as an emollient. It also contains beneficial vitamin E.
• Turn to any of these inexpensive products to trap in skin’s own moisture: lanolin (obtained from wool), petroleum jelly, mineral oil, peanut oil, or even vegetable shortening (such as Crisco). Just use them sparingly to avoid feeling greasy.
• Switch soaps. If you use a deodorant soap, stop. These soaps dry the skin. And they contain perfumes, which are irritants. Liquid soaps also tend to be gentler on your skin. Put a squirt bottle next to your sink for washing your hands.
• Shower sparingly. Never stay in the bath or shower for more than 15 minutes. When you take long soaks, you’re washing away your skin’s protective oils. And use lukewarm water, not hot. Hot water tends to strip the oil from your skin.
A natural boost for dry skin treatment
• Eat fish. At least twice a week, eat some oily, cold-water fish like herring or salmon. These are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep your skin-cell membranes healthy. Other good sources of these fatty acids are walnuts, avocados, and flaxseed oil. Mix up to two tablespoons of flaxseed oil each day into your salad dressing or your morning oatmeal. (If you add it to hot cereal, do so only after the cereal is cooked. Flaxseed oil breaks down into less-useful compounds if you cook with it.)
• Take your vitamins. Certain vitamins and minerals help support healthy skin. Every day, take 100 milligrams of a B-complex vitamin supplement containing thiamin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid; 15 milligrams of beta-carotene in divided doses, with meals; and 15 milligrams of zinc.
• Find the right formula. Look for products that offer an array of skin-enhancing nutrients in one pill. Look for a pill formula containing vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, zinc, selenium, and other minerals.
From 1,801 Home Remedies (Reader’s Digest)