We usually associate dry skin with those frigid, dark days of winter, but it’s a common problem even in this swampy humidity. The culprits: sunburns, air conditioning, chlorine. When the heat index is north of 85 degrees, it’s a lot easier to drink too little water (or too much alcohol) and become dehydrated, which, among other things, can also lead to dry skin.
Dry skin is more of a nuisance than a concern—it can itch, flake, crack, and make fine lines and wrinkles a little more noticeable—but it’s also one of those things you can notice with every little movement. So helping it to heal can take on an added sense of urgency. Follow these steps to find relief. (They’ll work in the winter, too, if you want to bookmark this page.)
Too much of a good thing
When we’re thirsty, we drink. And when our skin’s dry and flaky, we hop in a bath or a shower. Our instincts are right until that point, but then it often goes sideways: The water’s too hot, we soak for too long, and our body wash is way too abrasive.
Keep your bath or shower in the five- to 10-minute range. The water temperature should be cool to warm. And before you climb in, close the bathroom door. That’ll lock in the steam and ramp up the humidity, which is good for keeping skin moist.
You’ll also want to reach for a mild, fragrance-free body wash or soap. Deodorant soaps and skin care products that contain fragrance, alcohol, retinoids, and alpha-hydroxy acid are too harsh for dry, sensitive skin. And use your body wash sparingly. A thick lather is going to dry your skin out even more.
When you climb out, don’t dry off completely. Instead, blot yourself dry with a towel. Then immediately slather on moisturizer (fragrance-free, remember). Ointments, creams, and moisturizers work by trapping existing moisture in your skin. So, for them to be their most effective, you need to apply them while your skin’s still damp.
Humidity is your friend
Give yourself a few minutes to allow the moisturizer to be completely absorbed before getting dressed. Even then, your skin’s probably still going to feel a little raw. Wearing clothes that are light and breathable will help with that. Cotton is good, but blended fabrics (think athleisure clothing) are better.
It’s also a good idea to use a hypoallergenic laundry detergent.
And, if you’re not already using a humidifier while you sleep, start. Air-conditioned air is very dry air, and we tend to feel it most while we sleep because we’re spending several uninterrupted hours in one spot. A humidifier will help to offset it. Just remember to close your bedroom door.
Follow these steps and you should feel noticeably better within a day or two. If you don’t, you may want to see a dermatologist. Very dry skin can require a prescription ointment or cream. Dry skin can also be a symptom of a skin condition that needs treatment.