How Two Leading Dermatologists Manage Their Dry Skin
Dermatologists are skin care experts with access to the most innovative treatments available, so it's easy to assume that they never come face to face with any pesky complexion concerns. But that couldn't be further from the truth: These doctors are just like us, and experience everything from acne to dry skin. When it comes to the latter, even dermatologists have to prevent and manage this condition. "It's a lot of work to treat dry skin during a flare," explains Dr. Nava Greenfield of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. "However, a lot of small, but consistent changes in behavior make a huge difference." With that in mind—and as we enter the driest season of the year—keep reading for a handful of dry skin tips, straight from dermatologists who personally rely on them.
Frequently apply emollients.
Emollients are soothing and softening agents that are oftentimes paired with hydrating and repairing ingredients like ceramides, glycerin, petrolatum, dimethicone, fats, and oils. Dermatologist Dr. Onyeka Obioha recommends all of these agents and relies on them for the treatment of dry skin. "My favorite emollient for dry skin is the Avene XeraCalm A.D. Lipid-Replenishing Balm ($48, dermstore.com), which features omega-6 fatty acids and hydrating thermal spring water," she shares. Dr. Obioha isn't the only dermatologist who swears by emollients: Dr. Greenfield also holds them on a pedestal. "I carry around a petroleum-based emollient and put it on at least once an hour," she reveals. Speaking of emollients, Dr. Obioha notes that soothing, softening, and hydrating creams are especially important for your hands, a part of the body that frequently experiences dehydration. "Opt for thick hand creams and ointments, which are oil based rather than water-based lotions," she says.
Pay extra attention to your hands.
Even if you apply hand cream every hour, however, Dr. Obioha recommends pampering them further at least once a week. "When dry hands flare and you have downtime, I recommend applying Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($9.58, amazon.com) or Vaseline Original Unscented Petroleum Jelly ($4.95 for two, amazon.com) and putting on vinyl gloves for 30 minutes so that your hands can absorb and seal in the moisture before it evaporates," she says.
Avoid soaps and moisturizers that contain fragrance.
As much as you may love a heavily-fragranced hand soap, both Dr. Obioha and Dr. Greenfield agree that it's best to steer clear of strong scents. "Most fragrances are supported by alcohol which dehydrates your skin, worsening the dryness," Dr. Greenfield explains.
Choose your hand sanitizer wisely.
While Dr. Obioha recommends avoiding excess exposure to hand sanitizer and harsh soaps, in today's day and age, it's virtually impossible. With that in mind, Dr. Greenfield insists on only using sanitizer and soaps with an element of moisture, like aloe vera. "These harsh soaps will undo any progress you have made," Dr. Greenfield warns, reiterating the importance of always having a hydrating hand cleansing product in your home, as well as in your bag while you are on the go.
Take fewer showers—and be mindful of the temperature.
Long, hot showers feel incredible after a long day, but, unfortunately, they can make your dry skin look and feel a whole lot worse. Because of this, Dr. Greenfield admits to taking fewer, shorter, and cooler showers when her skin is feel particularly dry. "If I normally shower daily, I cut it down to four to five times a week," she says. "The less water exposure to your skin, the better it can heal."
Avoid harsh mechanical exfoliants, such as those with beads.
When you're in the shower or washing your face, Dr. Obioha recommends steering clear of physical exfoliants for both body and face. "This also includes loofahs and washcloths," she says. "Instead, opt for cleansers and creams with gentle exfoliants such as lactic, salicylic, or glycolic acid, which break bonds and slough off dead skin cells."
Moisturize while your skin is moderately damp.
Dr. Obioha says that the best time to apply your hydrating products is directly following a shower or face wash, while skin is still wet. "It will enhance absorption," she explains.
Wear gloves and protect your face.
Your hands and face are most likely to experience seasonally-induced dry skin. If your dermis feels tight and itchy, Dr. Greenfield advises against skipping your hat, gloves, and scarf. "The dry, cold air sucks all the moisture right out of your skin," she warns, noting the importance of bundling up.