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Dry skin occurs when the outermost layer of the skin is lacking moisture or sebum.

The skin is a vital area of the body and is responsible for the elimination of a quarter of the body’s waste products. The skin also helps to control body temperature as the sweat
glands regulate the excretion of water. Anything that causes loss of water and reduced barrier function of the top layer of skin can lead to the feeling of dry skin. Exposure to dry air and outside irritants such as chemicals, solvents, detergents and prolonged contact with hot water can make skin dry. Other things that can dry skin out are fragrances such as perfume, excessive swimming, and even certain weather conditions. Medical conditions such as psoriasis, contact dermatitis and hypothyroidism may lead to dry skin. As we age our skin can also be prone to becoming dry. See the Dry Skin – Seniors topic for more information.

Dry skin will not improve by drinking more water in a person who is already adequately hydrated. Using an effective skin moisturiser will improve skin barrier function and improve the look and feel of dry skin. Applying a moisturiser after bathing will give the best results. A moisturiser containing glycolic acid may help to enhance the effect, however it is not essential.

Treatment options

As with all conditions your Doctor should be consulted to diagnose and treat this condition if it is causing discomfort.


Avoid long, hot showers or baths. Short, warm showers or baths are preferable to prevent dry skin. Use a non-scented, soap-free cleanser to maintain your skin’s vital oil barrier. Pat skin dry without rubbing and apply a moisturiser straight away.


Sun damage is the major cause of unwanted changes to the skin. In summer and winter, the damage from UVA and UVB rays not only speeds up the skin’s aging process, it can also lead to spider veins, age spots, wrinkles, and melanomas. To protect your skin every day and all year, use a sunscreen containing a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater. Be sure to reapply generously at least every two hours you are outside, and more often if you are in and out of the water or working up a sweat. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and
protective clothing, like a long-sleeved shirt and pants, and stay out of the sun when it’s at its most intense, which is usually between about 9:30 a.m. to  4:30 p.m. In North Queensland.


In winter months, apply moisturiser to your feet and hands, and then put on gloves before you go outside. For extremely dry feet, apply moisturiser at night and sleep in cotton socks.
Only use facial moisturiser on your face. Body moisturisers with oils can cause acne or infections of the hair follicles. Avoid irritants as much as possible. Those who work with irritating products can protect their skin by applying moisturiser and wearing protective clothing. After swimming, shower off to remove residual pool chemicals and then apply moisturiser.
Wear gloves when washing dishes.


Skin dryness may be improved by having adequate amounts of essential fatty acids in the diet. Include fish (grilled) at least three times a week. Essential fatty acids are very important for maintaining healthy skin and help to reduce inflammation. The best sources include; fish, especially tuna, salmon, halibut and sardines; nuts and seeds; and certain oils such as the vegetable oils. For healthy elimination and nutrition, high fibre foods should be included in the diet. In this group are wholemeal bread, legumes and wholegrains such as brown rice. Blackberries, strawberries and passionfruit are all high in fibre and should be included as well. Antioxidants are important for healthy skin because they help to neutralise some of the harm done to your body by free radicals. Free radical damage is one factor behind signs of ageing such as wrinkles and dry skin. Some antioxidants that can help skin stay healthy include vitamins C and E, selenium, and coenzyme Q10. Food sources of antioxidants include tangerines, sweet potatoes, papayas, capsicum peppers, citrus fruits, cherries, spinach, olives, and grapes as well as green tea, and sardines. For healthy kidney function and good health, try to stay well hydrated, preferably with filtered water. Fresh fruit juices diluted with water are a good idea as well as they contain vital ingredients which can help to nourish the skin.


Supplements may only be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate. Essential fatty acids such as flaxseed oil and fish oil.  Antioxidants including Vitamins A, C, E, Zinc, Selenium and Co-enzyme Q10.


The listed oils are suggested for the health management of Dry Skin. The most specific oils are shown in capitals. Apricot Kernel, AVOCADO, Carrot, EVENING PRIMROSE, GERANIUM, Jasmine, JOJOBA, Orange, Neroli, Sandalwood, Sweet Almond.
DIRECT: Blend any single listed essential oil or combination of essential oils – 5 drops (total) to 10mL (1/3 fl oz) carrier oil ie: Apricot Kernel, Avocado, Evening Primrose, Jojoba, Sweet Almond. Apply to dry skin area twice daily. Any listed carrier oil can be applied neat to the skin. Jasmine and Neroli oil, when diluted 3% in Jojoba oil and the Carrot infused oil can be blended 10 drops (total) to 10mL (1/3 fl oz) carrier oil and applied in the same manner.


  1. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
  2. Follow the diet hints.
  3. Apply a sunscreen every day with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater.
  4. Always use a good facial moisturiser and body moisturiser. Ask your Pharmacist for suitable products.
  5. Use a soap-free and unscented body and facial cleanser. Use warm, not hot water, and keep showers and baths short.
  6. If hands suffer from dry skin, a silicone based barrier cream may help to make the skin water repellent and also protect the skin.
  7. If your skin is dry and sore, ask your Pharmacist for advice about a cream to decrease any inflammation.
  8. Harsh cleaners, detergents, solvents and bleaches must be avoided at all times.
  9. If you live in a dry climate, a humidifier in your room may be beneficial to keep the air in the room moist.


DISCLAIMER: This information is an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace medical advice for individual conditions or treatments.

Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, nurse or naturopath before following any medical regimen to see whether it is safe and effective for you.