Skincare for Extremely Dry, Sensitive Skin
If you’re struggling with extremely dry, rough, red, scaly areas of reactive skin on your body, this article is going to help you. We know all too well that to get answers to this uncomfortable, unsightly problem, you have to be a detective and cautious about which skincare products you use.
You probably already know that this skin issue requires special products, but before you start thinking about what to use, it’s best to talk to your dermatologist first to find out if the skin concern you have is eczema. If your doctor determines that you do indeed have eczema, there are some amazing options for the two of you to discuss for getting it under control.
Once you have a definitive understanding of what’s happening with your skin, you can begin the task of assembling the best skincare routine possible to keep your tender skin hydrated, soft, smooth, and calm.
Gentle, Effective Skincare Matters
Extensive research makes it abundantly clear that gentle skincare is the first line of defense: Fragrance free, exceptionally hydrating, and non-irritating cleansers, moisturisers, and sunscreens from the neck down are essential, even for eczema-prone skin. This is equally and always vital from the neck up, but this skin problem rarely occurs on the face. When it does, it generally appears only over the eye area; only your doctor can determine if it’s eczema or not.
A gentle skin-loving routine is important because it helps everything else you’re using work better. You don’t want to make your already-compromised skin have to fight harder to look healthy and feel smooth.
Hydration is key: Skin-drenching hydration will help significantly in diminishing the appearance of scaling and dry patches, but the hydrating products must be free of any skin-aggravating ingredients—always look for fragrance-free. If skin is continually irritated, the distressing signs of dryness, flaking, redness, and rough skin will persist.
Also incredibly important: The skincare products you use must contain ingredients that improve and strengthen skin’s surface to prevent moisture loss and defend it from destructive elements in the environment.
The best way to improve the appearance of skin is to supply it with generous amounts of antioxidants, soothing ingredients, and concentrated hydrating ingredients. (We love glycerin, hyaluronic acid, antioxidant-rich soothing plant oils, ceramides, and omega fatty acids!)
Of course, you also must use a sunscreen to protect skin from further damage while visibly strengthening its natural ability to improve. If you have this skin problem, it’s best to select a sunscreen whose active ingredients are only zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. They present minimal to no chance of causing sensitivity, even when applied around the eyes.
This state-of-the-art combination of ingredients—antioxidants, hydrating and soothing ingredients, and gentle sunscreens—can have amazing results for all skin types, but especially for extremely dry, flaky, and reactive skin. It’s been theorized that this type of extremely compromised skin is also more susceptible to environmental damage.
At Paula’s Choice Skincare, we carefully follow this philosophy with all our products. The best options for dealing with extra-dry skin on your body are ALL OVER Hair & Body Shampoo (one of the few fragrance-free body washes around), and, for stubborn dry patches, our CLINICAL Ultra-Rich Soothing Body Butter.
In addition to a gentle skincare routine, it’s important you avoid things that can trigger skin reactions. Steer clear of known irritants and prolonged contact with water. The most common skincare ingredients to avoid are fragrances (whether natural or synthetic), harsh cleansing agents, all forms of citrus and mint, and denatured or SD-types of alcohol. We cannot stress enough how important fragrance free is; fragrant essential oils smell great, but they can be a disaster for dry reactive skin.
It also helps a great deal to reapply moisturiser within seconds of washing any part of the body. This is especially true for your hands, because soaps and cleansers are notorious for triggering a reaction when you have extra-dry, easily sensitised skin.
Try switching to a creamy, moisturising body wash for your hands because most hand soaps, even the soap-free liquids, tend to be too drying, which is even more problematic if you have this skin concern. Follow with an emollient-rich, fragrance-free hand cream or body moisturiser for beautiful results that look as good as they feel!
References for this information:
British Journal of Dermatology, April 2017, DOI #10.1111/bjd.15602; and May 2010, pages 964–973 and 1088–1092
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, April 2017, Supplemental, pages S47–S48
Expert Review of Clinical Immunology, March 2016, pages 289–300
Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, May 2015, pages 940–947
Journal of Clinical Diagnosis Research, December 2013, pages 2683–2685
Clinical Cosmetic Investigative Dermatology, March 2010, pages 99–117
About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!