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How to Prevent Scaly Skin

Scaly skin can be uncomfortable at best, and treating it once it occurs is difficult. Preventing scaly skin can be much easier, depending on the cause. Preventing scaly skin is not always possible, as it may be an indication of an underlying health condition, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk.

Part One of Four:
Identifying and Treating Causes of Scaly Skin

  1. 1
    Recognize the symptoms of eczema. Eczema symptoms vary from individual to individual but often include red to dark brown patches of itchy, dry, scaly skin. Eczema most commonly occurs on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids and the insides of elbows and knees. These symptoms can be worsened by stress, sweat, heat, generally dry skin and irritants in the air. Most severe problems with eczema stem from infections received during intense scratching.
    • Antihistamines and anti-itch creams can help reduce the itching associated with eczema, reducing the scratching that can occur.
    • Keeping your skin well moisturized and taking baths that help reduce itching, such as oatmeal baths, can help reduce the scaly skin associated with eczema and reduce itching. A humidifier can also help keep your skin moisturized.
    • If home treatments aren’t helping, see your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe creams to help reduce itching.[1]
  2. 2
    Recognize the symptoms of psoriasis. The skin condition psoriasis is primarily identified by red patches of skin covered in silvery scales. Other symptoms of psoriasis include dry, cracked skin, itching or burning, thickened or pitted fingernails, and swollen and stiff joints. Psoriasis should be treated by a doctor, who will prescribe topical ointments such as corticosteroids and retinoids in mild cases, with more severe cases requiring oral medication and light therapy.
    • The best approach to keeping psoriasis in check on your own is to avoid particular triggers that might set off an inflammation. These include stress, cold weather, smoking, or heavy alcohol consumption. Keep a log of suspected triggers to help avoid activities that you think are causing outbreaks.
    • Home treatment options for psoriasis include staying well moisturized and avoiding prolonged, hot baths. However, these treatments only assist in reducing symptoms, and will not eliminate the skin condition.[2]
  3. 3
    Recognize fungal infections. Many topical fungal infections, such as ringworm and athlete’s foot, cause red, itchy scaly areas on the skin. In the case of infections such as ringworm, the scaly patch eventually expands into a circular pattern or “ring.” These fungal infections are commonly acquired from direct contact with an infected surface, such as a floor mat or another person.
    • If you’re certain of the nature of the infection, a simple over the counter antifungal cream can help clear up the affected area. Clotrimazole and terbinafine are two common antifungal creams that can be found at most pharmacies.[3]
  4. 4
    Recognize the symptoms of ichthyosis. This “fish scale” skin disorder is indicated by dry, scaly skin that presents with distinct polygonal-shaped scales. The skin may also become thickened or flaky. Ichthyosis is an inherited condition, so the only treatment is easing the symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe creams and ointments containing salicylic acid, urea, or retinoids. Bathing in warm salt water will ease scaling associated with the condition.[4]
  5. 5
    Recognize the presence of scabies. Scabies typically present as a series of small red bumps with irregular “track marks” indicating their travel across the skin. Your own reaction to the presence of scabies may include inflammation and scaly skin, particularly if you are finding yourself scratching at the affected area frequently. A doctor will need to prescribe a topical cream to get rid of the infestation.
    • Over the counter medications are useful for reducing the amount of itching you experience while you wait for your prescription.[5]

Part Two of Four:
Using Products to Keep Your Skin From Becoming Dry

  1. 1
    Moisturize. Moisturizers can prevent your skin from getting dry, which can exacerbate existing skin conditions and lead to scaly skin. They are designed to hold water in the skin and provide a temporary barrier. Moisturizers are not all the same but most contain humectants and emollients, which are additives that help reduce the loss of moisture in the product.
    • Look for moisturizers that contain the active ingredients petrolatum, mineral oil, lanolin, and dimethicone. These ingredients help seal in moisture.
    • Other ingredients to look for include glycerin, propylene glycol, proteins, and urea. These help attract water to the outer layers of the skin.
    • Apply liberally and often. Use moisturizer every day after washing, bathing or showering. Moisturizer works best when applied to damp skin.[6]
  2. 2
    Apply sunscreen regularly. Sunburned skin will become scaly and flaky as the skin heals, and prolonged exposure causes the skin to take on a leathery appearance. If you go outside each day, apply sunscreen to your body, and remember to reapply as necessary. Use enough lotion to coat any skin that will not be covered by clothing.
    • Use sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 year round in order to prevent damage from the sun.
  3. 3
    Stay away from tanning salons. Frequent use of tanning beds damages the skin and can lead to skin cancers such as melanoma and basal cell carcinoma. Over time, tanning beds will also cause wrinkles, age spots, and change the texture of your skin.
    • Indoor tanning is not safer than outdoor tanning. Both are considered dangerous for the skin.[7]
  4. 4
    Wear protective clothing year round, especially in summer and winter months. Sport wide brimmed hats, long sleeves and pants to protect your skin from sun, wind and cold. Wind and cold weather can reduce the natural moisture in the skin, leading to dry, itchy patches. It is also possible to become sunburned in winter, particular when there is snow on the ground.
    • Use gloves, knit hats, scarves and good boots during the winter months and in snow. The extreme cold can damage skin, and snow reflects the sun’s UV rays.[8]

Part Three of Four:
Eating a Diet that Promotes Smooth and Healthy Skin

  1. 1
    Drink plenty of water. Keep your skin hydrated from the inside out. The outer layer of skin needs plenty of water, and if lacks sufficient hydration, will feel dry and rough, which can lead to itching and scratching. Though there is a lack of research showing a direct link between skin health and water consumption, staying hydrated is always a good idea.
    • Drink roughly 8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day to stay hydrated. This can come from drinking water, or water from fruits and vegetables.[9]
  2. 2
    Eat a well-balanced diet of fruits and vegetables. Add fish into your diet and limit your fat intake. Food items such as coconut oil, avocados and salmon contain nutrients and fats that help reduce inflammation, including that which occurs on the skin. Such inflammation can lead to further skin issues, or agitate existing skin conditions.
    • Foods high in antioxidants have a protective effect on the skin. Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, blueberries, nuts, lentils, and fatty fishes are all high in antioxidants.
    • Reduce the number of foods you eat that are high in processed or refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. Such foods promote aging of the skin.[10]
  3. 3
    Take a multivitamin. Vitamins A, Bs, C, E, D, and K are particularly helpful for healthy skin. These vitamins can help prevent damage from the sun, fight against free radicals, repair and build new skin cells.
    • Ask your doctor before taking any multivitamin. Your doctor is best equipped to tell you what vitamins you should be getting, and how much more you need.
    • Don't take too many vitamins, particularly if you get plenty of vitamins in your diet already. This can lead to an overdose of vitamins, which can be harmful or fatal.[11]
    • Try a fish oil supplement, such as krill oil, to heal your skin. Eczema and other forms of as dry, flaky skin can be signs of an omega-3 deficiency. Alternatively you could even put anchovies on your pizza.

Part Four of Four:
Avoiding Dry Skin When Showering

  1. 1
    Take a cooler shower. Hot water will dry out your skin quickly. Instead, opt for a lukewarm or cool shower to keep your skin from becoming too dry. If you do take a warmer shower, don’t spend too long washing. Keep the shower as short as possible.
    • Pat dry with towel after showering, rather than scrubbing. Scrubbing too hard can contribute to dry skin.[12]
  2. 2
    Limit how often you shower. Showering too often can dry out your skin and rob it of natural oils. Try cutting back on how often you shower or bathe in order to see if your skin starts feeling a little less dry.
    • Ask your dermatologist whether showering could be contributing to your dry skin, and what changes you can make to help alleviate the symptoms.[13]
  3. 3
    Use a moisturizing body wash. Many kinds of soap, particularly bar soap, strip the skin of its natural oils, rendering it dry and flaky. Use a soap or body wash with moisturizing properties to help lock in moisture during and after your shower.
    • Look for body washes with sodium lauroyl isethionate, and hydrolyzed milk protein, petrolatum, or shea butter for moisturizing properties.
    • Stay away from body washes containing alcohol or fragrances. These can contribute to dry skin.[14]
    • Avoid over scrubbing when applying your body wash. This can damage the skin, especially when using some kinds of wash cloths or body scrubs.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Can you use Dove soap to help moisturize your skin?
    Answered by Luba Lee, FNP-BC
    • Yes, you can. Alternatively, try going a more natural route and using simple cleansing soap bars and a clean washcloth to cleanse your skin. Then apply natural oils, such as almond or sesame seed oil, to moisturize.
    Thanks! 1 0
  • What are some natural products for preventing scaly skin?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Avocado, honey, shea butter, and coconut oil are all thought to help moisturize skin. Look for products that feature these ingredients, or try creating your own skin cream with these items.
    Thanks! 4 2
  • How can I cure scaly skin within a week?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Take a break from any harsh products you are currently using. Try to limit your skincare routine to just cleansing and moisturizing. Keep it simple. Less is more.
    Thanks! 1 0
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  • See a dermatologist. Your skin doctor can help keep your skin in its best condition in order to prevent scaly skin.
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  • If you are experiencing a reaction to a moisturizer or develop a rash, contact your doctor.
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Things You'll NeedEdit

  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Protective Clothing
  • Water
  • Balanced Diet
  • Vitamin Supplements
  • Dermatologist

Expert Review By:

Family Nurse Practitioner

This version of How to Prevent Scaly Skin was reviewed by Luba Lee, FNP-BC on March 16, 2018.

18 votes - 67%
Co-authors: 13
Views: 48,639

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