How Do You Treat Aging Dry Skin?

Medically Reviewed on 11/9/2021

Age and dry skin

Dry skin is common in older adults. Treat aging dry skin my moisturizing, bathing in warm water, and using a soft washcloth.
Dry skin is common in older adults. Treat aging dry skin my moisturizing, bathing in warm water, and using a soft washcloth.

Your skin changes as you age. But there are ways that you can take care of your skin and make it feel better.

Dry skin is common in older adults. Researchers found that more than half of the 923 older adults studied had dry skin issues. Dry skin affected more men and those who were immobile.

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. Your skin is made up of complex structures and cell types. It has three different layers, the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue.

By the age of 80, your outer layer of skin (epidermis) may have lost as much as half of its thickness. This affects how much water it’s able to retain. 

As you age, dry skin is not the only change. Other changes to skin include:

You may have an increased likelihood of dry skin if you:

  • Spend too much time in the sun.
  • Have a lot of stress.
  • Smoke.
  • Don’t drink enough fluids.
  • Live in an area with dry air.
  • Have health problems, like kidney disease or diabetes.

How to treat aging dry skin

When taking a shower or bath, take care of your dry skin by:

  • Use a gentle moisturizing body wash or bar soap that’s fragrance-free. Look for moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, lanolin, and glycerin.
  • Shower or bathe with warm water. Don’t use hot water as it removes your skin’s natural oils. This may instead make your skin dryer. 
  • Use a soft washcloth. A bath brush or shower puff may irritate your skin. 
  • Don’t shower or bathe for too long as this may dry your skin. 5 to 10 minutes should be enough.
  • After bathing, pat your skin gently with a towel. Leave a bit of water on your skin before you apply moisturizer. This will help hydrate your skin.
  • Within 3 minutes of bathing, apply a creamy moisturizer that’s meant for dry skin. If your skin feels very dry, try an ointment instead of a cream. Ointments help your skin hold water better than creams. 
  • Moisturize your skin throughout the day.

Topical retinol 

Retinols are a type of retinoid, a vitamin A-based medication. Retinoids increase your body's production of collagen and new blood vessels in the skin.

Collagen is a protein that your body makes. It helps maintain your skin’s structure, retains water, and keeps your skin firm and smooth.

As you age, your body produces less collagen. In the first five years of menopause, you may lose up to 30% of your collagen production.
In a study of 36 subjects aged 80 to 97, a 0.4% topical retinol applied to the arm three times a week for 24 weeks was found to improve roughness, wrinkling, and the overall appearance of skin.

Retinoids may also cause skin irritation and dryness, so talk to your doctor before you try any skincare products with retinoids.

How to prevent dry skin

Here are some ways to avoid dry skin:

Go fragrance-free

Use products that are fragrance-free. Fragrance can cause skin irritation. To heal and prevent itchy dry skin, avoid skincare products that have fragrance. 

Unscented products usually contain a chemical that masks the smells of other ingredients. Fragrance-free means that masking and fragrance materials aren’t used.

Wear gloves

Wear gloves when doing housework or gardening. These chores expose your skin to sunlight, chemicals, and other things that may dry your skin.

Use a humidifier

When the air is dry or cold, turn on a humidifier to add moisture to the air.

Sun safety

Sunlight is a major cause of skin aging. Before you go outdoors, apply a sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or above, and has broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection. You can also wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and a hat.

Stop smoking 

Smoking not only causes cancer and other diseases, it also wrinkles your skin and reduces blood flow. This makes your skin look aged and leathery.

Improve your diet 

In a study of middle-aged women, researchers found that those who have a diet that’s high in vitamin C and linoleic acid, and low in carbohydrates and fats have a lower likelihood of skin dryness and wrinkles.

Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid that can be found in:

  • Vegetable oils like soybean and corn oil
  • Seeds like sunflower seeds
  • Nuts like brazil nuts

Get enough sleep 

You should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep lets your body recover and restore any damage.

Lack of sleep has significant effects on the skin. In one study, researchers kept participants awake for one night and tested the condition of their skin the next day. They found that participants’ skin was significantly dryer, which led to less elasticity and more scaling of their skin. Blood flow to the skin was also greatly decreased and their facial pores were more obvious.


Most cases of dry skin are caused by disease or infection. See Answer

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 11/9/2021

American Academy of Dermatology Association: "HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR SKIN IN YOUR 60S AND 70S."

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women."

Cedars Sinai: "Collagen for Your Skin: Healthy or Hype?"

Clinical Interventions in Aging: "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety."

Harvard Health Publishing: "8 tips to protect and preserve aging skin," "Do retinoids really reduce wrinkles?"

Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications: "The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Biophysical Properties of Facial Skin."

Journal of Tissue Viability: "Dry skin in home care: A representative prevalence study."

Lancaster General Health: "Skin Care Tips to Help Stop the Clock on Aging."

Linus Pauling Institute: "Essential Fatty Acids."

Maturitas: "Skin health in older age."

National Institute on Aging: "Skin Care and Aging."

Nursing Standard: "Skin care in old age."

Nutrients: "A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study."