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Skin Care Pros Share Their Top Tips for Healing Dry, Cracked Skin

Expert solutions that actually work.
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When dry skin goes from uncomfortable to painful, it's important to give it more than just the usual TLC. It's a sign you're dealing with a compromised skin barrier and the issue can become compounding if you don't nip it quickly.

"When skin is dry, its ability to bind in moisture and prevent moisture loss is impaired and it is less able to work as an effective barrier," explains board certified dermatologist at Marmur Medical Dr. Rachel Maiman. "Many factors can contribute to loss of water and/or lipids that naturally make up a part of this protective barrier. These causes include cold weather, chemical irritants like dish soaps, hot water, medications and inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis."

The bottom line? When dry skin is left untreated, the issue only gets worse and can lead to uncomfortable itching and painful cracking. So we asked skin care experts how to transform dry, cracked skin into soft and supple skin.

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Don't Over Wash

Always opt for a medium-warm, short shower and use pH-balanced, mild cleansers. This gives your dry, cracked skin a chance to recover. Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, board certified dermatologist and author of Beyond Soap, adds that you should clean sparingly. "Cleansing oils are also helpful as they put back some of what is removed with cleansing."

Image via Imaxtree

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Embrace Emollients

Here's your permission slip to layer on thick, occlusive emollients as many times throughout the day as you'd like and can tolerate. "Emollients work especially well in combination with humectants because they sit on the surface of the skin to lock in moisture and prevent evaporative loss of water from the skin," says Maiman. "In other words, it helps keep in what humectants draw from the lower skin layers."

Examples include natural butters and oils, petroleum jelly, allantoin and mineral oil.

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Don't Forget Humectants

Oil-based products can work wonders, but don't forget to use humectants as well. "These ingredients draw water from the lower layers of the skin to the more superficial layers, effectively hydrating them," explains Maiman. "These include, but are not limited to, glycerin, dimethicone, urea, hyaluronic acid and pantothenol."

Image via Imaxtree

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Apply Moisturizer Within Five Minutes of Washing

This rule applies to both washing your face and showering. This hack essentially helps lock in moisture from your cleansing sesh. "Do not rub skin dry, but rather pat it dry so there is still a bit of moisture on the skin. That is the best time to apply moisturizers," notes Maiman.

Image via Imaxtree

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