Treating Dry Skin: Exfoliation to Remove Dead Skin

A dull, lifeless complexion can be caused by an excess of dead skin cells. Discover the best exfoliation techniques to remove this dry skin.


Dead, dry skin can build up on the surface of your body, giving your skin a dull, lifeless look. But exfoliating can help remove the dead skin, revealing the fresher, newer skin beneath. Here’s a quick look at what causes this common phenomenon — and the best ways to solve it.

Causes of Dry Skin Most people suffer from dry skin at some point in their lives. These are among the most common triggers:

  • Winter weather. The cold, dry air of winter and the dry heat indoors can conspire to dry your skin and lead to a buildup of dead skin.
  • Hot water. Long, hot showers and baths may be relaxing, but they can wash precious oils from your skin, making it more prone to dryness.
  • Harsh soap. Heavy-duty cleansers can also strip away your skin’s natural oils and irritate the skin, making it dry, cracked, and prone to rashes.
  • Health conditions. Common skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis can lead to dry, scaly skin — as can more serious medical conditions, like thyroid problems and even diabetes.

Exfoliation Techniques Like sandpaper on a piece of wood, an exfoliant helps rub away the rough, dead skin, leaving behind a smoother, clearer layer of skin. Here are several techniques that can help you slough off dead skin and get a rosy glow.

  • Use exfoliating tools. Natural sponges, loofahs, and pumice stones are often used to remove dry, dead skin cells from feet, knees, elbows, and other tough areas of the body, while terry washcloths and soft scrubbing gloves can be used to clear away the dry skin from your face and more sensitive spots.
  • Scrub away the dead skin. You’ll find grainy exfoliating scrubs of every flavor and scent on the market — or you can make your own with a little sugar and some olive oil or a favorite essential oil. Dermatologists recommend using ones that contain sugar or artificial grains to exfoliate your skin. Scrubs that contain fruit or nut particles may be too harsh.
  • Wash your skin with exfoliating acids. Cleansers and lotions that contain ingredients like lactic acid, salicylic acid, and alpha hydroxy acid can serve as exfoliants, removing dead skin and bringing the fresher skin to the surface.
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. To prevent dry skin, you need to lock in the moisture. Try using thick, rich creams like Eucerin on the roughest spots, and apply them right after you shower to help seal your skin.

When to Go to a Pro About Dry Skin If home care treatments don’t resolve your problem with dry, dead skin, you may need to seek professional help to regain your glow. Here are reasons that should prompt you to schedule an appointment:

  • If you need a significant change. A dermatologist can perform microdermabrasion — like a sandblasting of your skin — using fine crystals that are forcefully blown against your skin. It can give you a more serious level of exfoliation than you’ll get using home treatments, and without any real downtime before your skin looks flawless, though you’ll look a little pink just after it’s done.
  • If you suspect a more serious condition. Chronic skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis may need to be treated with prescription-strength creams, and serious underlying conditions like diabetes and thyroid imbalances require medical treatment.
  • If you develop an infection. Dry, dead skin can crack and peel, leaving raw areas of skin vulnerable to bacterial invasion. Your doctor may need to prescribe antibiotics to quell such an infection.
Last Updated: Monday, August 15, 2011

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