Dry Elbows: How to Fix Dry, Cracked Elbows According to Dermatologists

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Remember when your mom or dad said, “Don’t put your elbows on the dinner table”? Little did they know, that’s a good rule to follow for cosmetic reasons, too. Read on for the reason why, as well as the expert-approved ways to heal and improve (and in some cases, also brighten) dry and rough elbows so that they feel baby-soft and smooth.

Dry Elbows? Try Exfoliating With Acids To Treat Dry Skin

Glenn Dale, MD dermatologist Valerie Callender, MD says the best way to eliminate dry elbows and thickened skin on the elbows is to use exfoliating products that contain alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) salicylic acid, glycolic acid or lactic acid.

Prospect, KY dermatologist Tami Buss Cassis, MD agrees, saying her favorite ingredients for exfoliating dry elbows are also AHAs. “I am currently using Glytone Exfoliating Body Lotion and I love it,” she says, noting it contains 17.5 percent glycolic acid. “In one bottle, I see a significant improvement in my dry skin.” If you prefer a serum, try REN Clean Skincare AHA Smart Renewal Body Serum, which contains lactic acid.

Still Dealing With Dry Cracked Elbows? Opt for Thicker Products When Moisturizing Daily

“Ideally, one should moisturize their body once or twice a day, preferably after the shower, to prevent dry skin” says Miami dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill. “Moisturizing after the shower helps lock in the moisture on your skin, which will keep your skin soft and hydrated, especially if you struggle with dry elbows. Consistency is key. You will notice results when you follow a daily routine. I love using coconut oil on my body post-shower before bedtime.”

Dr. Longwill suggests using a thicker moisturizer that penetrates deeper into the dry skin of the elbows. “Look for ingredients such as urea and ceramides,” she says. “Urea gently exfoliates, and ceramides hydrate, which will help remove the dry, dead skin and moisturize simultaneously.” Dr. Cassis adds that these thicker formulas may not be “as easy to spread, so it will take you that extra two minutes, but it is worth it. You can cheat and use lotion in the summer when there is more hydration in the air.”

“Dry, cracked elbows can be a sign of either eczema, psoriasis or just irritation,” explains Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD. “All of these conditions respond beautifully to FixMySkin 1% Hydrocortisone Healing Balm ($20), which comes in a convenient size and ‘glue-stick’ applicator that allows for easy treatment of these areas.  This can be a great option for people who don’t have the time to find a dermatologist, but want a treatment that works quickly and effectively.”

“Aquaphor and Vaseline are good options I recommend for dry skin and dry elbows, especially in the winter,” adds Dr. Callender. “I also think moisturizing twice daily rather than once is beneficial.” We also like Glytone Ultra Softening Heel and Elbow Cream, which employs both exfoliating glycolic acid and hydrating glycerin to target dry elbows (and heels, and dry skin anywhere else you need it!).

You May Need Brightening Ingredients To Heal Dry Elbows, Too

“In skin of color, dryness of the elbows may appear dark,” says Dr. Callender. “So, in addition to exfoliating and moisturizing, topical skin-lightening agents can be added to the regimen. I recommend prescription hydroquinone, cysteamine or cosmeceutical cocktails containing kojic acid, azelaic acid, nicotinamide, tranexamic acid, or vitamin C.” Beauty Pie Superdose Vitamin C Bio-Vitamin Brightening Body Lotion contains both tranexamic acid and vitamin C, plus moisturizing benefits.

What to Do If Your Skin Is Dry and Rough

If your elbows are dry and rough, Dr. Longwill notes that you should also refrain from resting your elbows on hard surfaces, as it promotes thicker skin. “Extra-dry elbows and knees probably just means you are active,” says Dr. Cassis. “Mom knees, writers’ elbows—its all extra pressure on the surface, but you really should let your board-certified dermatologist take a look at it to make sure you aren’t dealing with something like psoriasis, lichen simplex chronicus or granuloma annulare. You will have to work extra hard to correct xerotic elbows and knees, but it can be done. You may have to add in a hydrating serum to help lock hydration into your skin and you really need to apply it to damp skin.”

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