16 Dermatologist-Approved Ways To Get Rid Of Dry Skin

Bring on the moisture.

by Lindsey Rose Black and Rachel Lapidos
Originally Published: 
16 dermatologist-approved ways to get rid of dry, flaky skin.
Getty Images/Klaus Vedfelt

A constant wintertime concern? How to deal with dry, flaky skin. The struggle is real, but dermatologists and facialists spoke with Bustle about the various ways to get rid of dry skin so your complexion stays healthy until spring. Luckily, all it takes is a few products and beauty routine hacks to ensure your gorgeous self stays moisturized.

Dryness happens when your skin doesn't produce enough natural oils, which are necessary to keep it better moisturized. "Dry skin is characterized by fewer oil-producing glands and subsequently less oil in the skin," Dr. Corey L. Hartman, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology, tell Bustle. "This can be impacted by changes in the seasons or a decrease in hormone levels as we age." It's really common to have dry skin, BTW: Signs you fall into this camp include flaking or scaling skin, as well as itchiness, redness, or the appearance of fine etched lines and wrinkles, says Dr. Vanessa Coppola, FNP-BC, board-certified nurse practitioner and founder of Bare Aesthetic Medical Spa.

In the winter, the harsh temps and low humidity levels can cause your skin to dry out even more, which impact how your complexion looks and feels. "Cold air tightens pores, reduces oil production, and reduces circulation," Hartman tells Bustle. Indoor heating can also exacerbate dryness, adds Coppola. "All of these external factors cause an increased loss of moisture [from the skin] and excessive dryness," she says.

Given the fact that it's mid-January and temperatures are only getting lower, this calls for special attention to your beauty routine in order to prevent pesky skin woes. Here, experts reveal 16 ways to get rid of dry skin.

1. Do Not Skip Lotion

Lotion is your first line of defense against the cold. In the winter, Hartman recommends switching from a lighter formula to a heavier cream or oil "that fortifies the skin barrier to make it more effective at trapping hydration into the skin," he says. Whichever one you go with, Coppola suggests ones with heavy perfumes or dyes, as they can contribute to more dryness or irritation.

2. Apply Moisturizer To Damp Skin

When you're applying moisturizer, whether it's to your body or your face, make sure it's going on your skin before it's fully dry. "Application should occur within three minutes of a bath or shower," says Hartman. "This method ensures that the moisturizer provides a sealed barrier that traps hydration into the skin before it has a chance to evaporate."

3. Take Shorter, Colder Showers

It sounds scary, but a colder (or at least lukewarm) shower will make a huge difference in treating dry skin. "While the hot water feels incredible, it causes more skin dryness," says Hartman, who also recommends making your showers shorter. Pro tip: "Use less soap and try to only hit the spots where skin touches the skin or where the most intense sweating occurs," he says.

4. Fully Cleanse Your Skin

Another key moisturizing practice? Make sure your skin is thoroughly cleansed before applying your hydrating product. "If you apply moisturizer to your unwashed skin, it will lock in all of the oil and debris that has accumulated throughout the day," says Heather Nicole, master esthetician and founder of Heather Nicole Advanced Integrative Skincare.

5. Use A Thick Body Moisturizer

According to Hartman, a thicker moisturizer is your best bet for dry skin. "Look for a heavy, emollient, bland formula with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or glycerin," he tells Bustle. For a totally luxurious and hydrating experience, slather on a body butter to do the job.

6. Consider Facial Oils

For seriously dry skin, don't be intimidated by facial oils, which can be game-changing for your winter regimen. Dr. Ellen Marmur, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare, points to oils like olive, grapeseed, moringa, almond, and avocado as nourishing extracts that can help treat dry complexions (and notes that acne-prone skin works best with almond oil). The special perk of facial oils is that they combine with the lipid layer found naturally upon your skin's surface layer, says Coppola, which makes them particularly helpful in providing and maintaining hydration.

7. Do Weekly Face Masks

A face mask can offer a concentrated boost of hydration to your skin (plus, they work perfectly for a self-care sesh). Coppola says to look for ones with moisturizing properties. "The key ingredients to look for are those that will draw in and bind water to the skin, like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, vitamin C, glycerin, and almond oil," she tells Bustle. Or you could turn to a biocellulose sheet mask, those which are made from naturally-derived materials and are more soothing and sensitive skin-friendly, which she says are a "wonderful way to soothe and hydrate dry, damaged skin." Try a mask treatment once or twice a week as a pick-me-up.

8. Use Gentle Cleansers

If you have dry skin — especially during the winter months — derms recommend avoiding harsh soaps and cleansers (namely, anything with sulfates, alcohol, or fragrance). "These can strip the skin of its natural emollients and exacerbate dryness," says Coppola. "You want to choose a lipid-rich, moisturizing wash that will help hydrate and replenish dry winter skin." Specifically, look for ingredients like glycerin and shea butter.

9. Don't Skip Sunscreen

Even if it's dark and gray out there, SPF is important to apply every single day. "My number one tip for managing dry skin is to always wear sunscreen, even if it's overcast or rainy," says Nicole. "Those UV rays can still penetrate through the clouds and damage skin."

10. Eat Plenty Of Good-For-You Fats

Give your skin some love from the inside out by including plenty of healthy fats, vitamins, and nutrients. "A healthy diet is necessary to maintain the structure and function of the skin," says Coppola, pointing to omega-3 fatty acids; vitamins A, C, E, and D; zinc; iron; and niacin as particularly beneficial to your complexion. Also, try to avoid a high sodium diet. "High sodium content can cause dry and cracked skin," says Nicole.

11. Remember To Exfoliate

If you over-exfoliate in the winter months, or if you have dry skin, it can lead to an increase in irritation and dryness, says Coppola. Make sure you're only using a gentle exfoliating product a couple of times a week. If you're using a physical face scrub, she recommends choosing one that isn't overly harsh or abrasive. With chemical exfoliants, aka alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), go with a low percentage (she recommends 10 to 15%) to reduce your chance of irritation.

12. Stay Hydrated

Keeping enough water in your system is crucial for maintaining soft skin. "Like all of your other organs, skin is primarily made up of water," says Nicole. "If it isn't hydrated, your organs can't function properly. With skin, this translates to dryness and flakiness." She recommends drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water daily, though other hydrating beverages — like tea and coconut water — also count.

13. Invest In A Humidifier

If the air in your apartment is specially dry, a small humidifier can help. "Humidifiers are great tools to help add more hydration to the skin," says Hartman. They're especially beneficial in the winter months when the heat is blasting.

14. Use A Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Experts often recommend incorporating hyaluronic acid into your skin care routine — for good reason. It's a humectant, which means it attracts and draws water into the skin, and is considered an MVP ingredient in the moisturizing skin care world. "Applying a hyaluronic acid serum will really seal in moisture and form a protective layer over the skin," says Nicole.

15. Try A DIY Beauty Treatment

Some skin-moisturizing heroes can actually be found in your kitchen. "Home remedies like applying a thin layer of coconut or olive oil to the skin can help keep it moisturized," says Coppola. Or, if you want to go the mask route, she recommends making a paste of honey, oatmeal, and plain yogurt. "This can be used as a soothing skin or body mask to help reduce inflammation and increase moisture in dry, irritated skin."

16. Soak In An Oat Bath

Another DIY beauty hack? Soaking in an oat bath, which will feel extra soothing on cracked, flaky skin, as the staple pantry ingredient is known for being full of vitamins and for calming inflammation. "You can blend one cup of oats in a coffee grinder or blender and pour it into your bath while it's still running," says Nicole. "Make sure you mix the oat powder into your bathwater, relax, and enjoy."

Studies referenced:

Ahmad, Z. (2010). The uses and properties of almond oil. Complement Ther Clin Pract.

Cretella, A.B.M. (2020). Expanding the anti-inflammatory potential of Moringa oleifera: topical effect of seed oil on skin inflammation and hyperproliferation. J Ethnopharmacol.

Lin, T-K. (2018). Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

Loden, M. (2002). A double-blind study comparing the effect of glycerin and urea on dry, eczematous skin in atopic patients. Acta Derm Venereol.

Papakonstantinou, E. (2012). Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermato-Endocrinology.

Schagen, S.K. (2012). Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermato Endocrinology.

Spada, F. (2018). Skin hydration is significantly increased by a cream formulated to mimic the skin’s own natural moisturizing systems. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology.

Stevenson, S. (2007). Effect of estrogens on skin aging and the potential role of SERMs. Clinical Interventions in Aging.

Telang, P.S. (2013). Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatology Online Journal.


Dr. Corey L. Hartman, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology

Dr. Vanessa Coppola, FNP-BC, board-certified nurse practitioner and founder of Bare Aesthetic Medical Spa

Dr. Ellen Marmur, M.D., New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare

Heather Nicole, master esthetician and founder of Heather Nicole Advanced Integrative Skincare

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