Healthy skin is soft, supple, and moisturized, but when it loses moisture and that moisture isnâ€™t replenished by frequent application of creams and lotions and drinking plenty of water, skin can become unhealthy, dry, and scaly. Severely dry skin can even begin to crack. What should you do when your skin is so dry that it forms gaping, painful cracks? Add moisture, stat.
Dry Skin Solution No. 1: Baths and Soaks
You may think that soaking dry, cracked skin in water is a good way to replenish lost moisture. And youâ€™d be right â€” and wrong. Water can actually be drying to the skin, says Christine Lopez, MD, a dermatologist and assistant program director in the department of dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
"Mere water will strip your skin of the essential oils," Dr. Lopez explains. But that doesn't mean that soaks and baths can't still be soothing for dry, cracked skin â€” you just have to bathe the right way.
Adding a few drops of a natural oil, like mineral, almond, or avocado oil, will help heal dry, cracked skin, Lopez says. However, it's important to limit those baths and showers to only a short time, no longer than 5 to 10 minutes with water that is only warm, not hot â€” hot water will only dry out the skin more. Lopez also suggests adding oatmeal or baking soda to the bath â€” about one cup for a tub full of water â€” to soothe the skin and help keep in moisture.
Dry Skin Solution No. 2: Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
As soon as you get out of the bath, Lopez suggests gently patting skin dry with a towel â€” don't rub or remove all of the water. Next, apply a few drops of a natural oil or a rich moisturizing cream all over your body. This will help seal the moisture in.
For very dry, cracked skin, petroleum jelly is a good, inexpensive option to try. Lopez suggests rubbing in the petroleum jelly and letting it saturate the skin; if cracks are on the hands or feet, smear those areas well and cover them with cotton gloves or socks to hold the petroleum jelly in place overnight while you sleep.
Dry Skin Solution No. 3: Pumice With Caution
In general, pumicing or filing dry, cracked skin isn't a good idea.
"I would limit the use of pumice stones" and similar tools, says Lopez. "I wouldn't use that on skin other than heels or feet. On feet, where there's repeated trauma, you can collect dead skin. That is where pumice stones or files can remove extra layers of dead cells so that the moisturizing cream will be absorbed better."
Dry Skin Solution No. 4: Super Glue
Super Glue has another good use â€” dermatologists actually recommended using a dab of Super Glue on cracked skin to promote healing and prevent further drying. The active ingredient is the same as that of liquid bandages and other medical adhesives used to close cuts and wounds.
First, make sure the skin crack is cleaned, says Lopez. Then, squeezing the edges of the crack together, apply a bit of Super Glue â€” enough to hold it closed. Hold the edges together until the glue dries to make sure the crack doesn't open.
The best medicine for dry, cracked skin is prevention, according to Lopez. To prevent painfully dry, cracked skin, apply a daily moisturizer all over the body. But even if you have dry skin, Lopez suggests being careful about going too heavy on creams and oils on your face, as that can lead to acne.
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