I have sensitive skin that dries out easily. Which types of soaps, washcloths, etc. should I use to help treat my skin better?
November 16, 2011 1:48 PM   Subscribe

I have sensitive skin that dries out easily. Which types of soaps, washcloths, etc. should I use to help treat my skin better?

I'm looking into ways of treating my skin better to prevent it from drying out and getting overly irritated.

I currently use your typical, cheap, heavily-perfumed mainstream bar soaps and wash myself from head to toe with them.

My biggest problems are with my lips and my ears. If I don't apply lip balm to my lips for three days, they become chapped to hell. I'd prefer if I didn't have to rely on using lip balm all the time as I'm pretty sure that the soap I use is a major cause of the dry skin.

As for the ear problem: Any soap I use causes ear pain. I bathe (my only option -- I don't have access to a shower) which is why traces of soap gets in my ears. This ear pain is just as much of a problem as the chapped lips I get.

With Winter coming up, now's the time that I should try combating this problem. The cold seasons are when my skin dries out the most.

Thanks. I'm looking forward to your suggestions.
posted by GlassHeart to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
In the winter, I only use soap on sweaty places - underams and nether regions. And on my face if it is oily. Otherwise, I just wash with water, and don't necessarily shower daily. Hot water is drying, so use cooler water if you can. Anything you can do to increase indoor humidity will help, as well as drinking plenty of water. I use chapstick brand at bedtime. If you keep it in your pocket, it's not as waxy, and it really helps my lips heal. Winter in the Frozen North is really dry.
posted by theora55 at 1:58 PM on November 16, 2011

Use unscented soap - if it needs to be a mainstream brand try Dove's sensitive skin soap or the iike. No Ivory - that's very drying. I'd also use unscented detergent - my husband's dry skin does better without perfumes. We like Aveeno lotion. Using a humidifier can help too. And why not use lip balm when you need it - multiple times a day?
posted by leslies at 2:00 PM on November 16, 2011

You should avoid washcloths altogether.

I'm partial to Vanicream. I won't use anything else on my face since I found it.
posted by jingzuo at 2:03 PM on November 16, 2011

I discovered jojoba oil as a moisturizer about 6 months ago. Now it's the only thing I use on my face (no soap at all) and rub it all over me right when I step out of the shower and then pat dry with a towel. It's awesome. ( I usually use dove or aveeno body wash. )
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:06 PM on November 16, 2011

OK, so this is probably going to sound way too fancy, but: put a water filter on your faucet. I just moved in with a new roommate who has a variety of skin allergies, and one of the things she's done is put a chlorine filter on the showerhead. Since moving in (and it's only been a couple weeks), my hair has been softer, I haven't had the dry, itchy skin issues, and my skin has been really clear. I use all the same soaps and towels and lotions that I've been using for years, so the only variable is the filtered water. It's amazing.

She got her filter (it's just a twist-on thing) at Home Depot.
posted by phunniemee at 2:07 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

I would recommend anything with shea butter in it. On top of naturally already dry skin and easily chapped lips, I have a thyroid condition AND take medications that make it worse. I swear by Dove Shea Butter Cream Oil Body Wash, and they also have the same formula in a bar soap that shouldn't be too expensive. Dove is a lifelong friend of mine.

And I shower every day, but I only wash my hair every other day, and I spend more time with areas like under my arms, my feet, etc.

I don't soap up every inch of my legs and arms, for instance, because I'm shaving my legs regularly and exfoliating them as it is when I do that, and my arms--what in the world would I be doing that would get my arms dirty? So unless I'm covering myself with whipped cream or rolling in cooking oil, I go easy in the shower.

For washing your face at night, Cetaphil is a good, mild cleanser. Now, I know you are a guy, but they do have makeup removal cloths for women that are moisturizing, remove all the bad stuff from your face, and might work for you as well, since you won't be getting soap and water in your ears.

For chapped lips, again, products with shea butter! I use Bath and Body Works lip balms, but they are way too expensive unless you get them on sale. Burt's Bees or Blistex balms are also good. Do NOT go for chapstick, or you will just keep on re-applying it all day as it wears off, and apparently some people even get addicted.
posted by misha at 2:08 PM on November 16, 2011

The best product on earth for chapped lips is Nivea's Kiss of Relief. It's not sold in stores anymore and is hard to find online, but it's awesome. I had chapped lips my entire life until I found this. I put on a thick layer at night (it's super sticky/greasy and doesn't work great for wearing during the day) and my lips are 100% better.
posted by jabes at 2:10 PM on November 16, 2011

Cetaphil all the way. Their stuff is gentle and great as a moisturizer. Also agree with the only soaping up sweaty places in the winter--anywhere else is probably unnecessary. Make sure you are staying hydrated too. As far as not wanting to wear lip balm all the time, you may have to get over that--I know that after a while your skin becomes 'conditioned' to it--my mom wears lipstick all the time and this even happens to her. Seconding Burt's Bees.
posted by lovableiago at 2:11 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Don't use mainstream soap! I switched to Dr. Bronners bar soap (I like the almond), and since then, no more dry skin! I don't even have to moisturize my body after I shower anymore! I do moisturize my face though, with Eucerin.

Most soaps/body washes/etc. dry out the skin horribly. Go natural!
posted by katypickle at 2:12 PM on November 16, 2011

I have eczema and my doctor recommended not using soap anywhere but underarms and privates. However, I do like Oil of Olay moisturizing body wash. I do a quick once over. If my skin acts drier than normal, I use Cetaphil.

Since you're taking baths, make sure the water isn't too hot and that you're not staying in too long.

My lotion is Eucerin Plus Smooth Essentials and it works really, really well and I've tried everything.
posted by shoesietart at 2:12 PM on November 16, 2011

For chapped lips, I slather on Vaseline at night before bed, and leave it caked on overnight. In the morning my lips are super soft. Throughout the day I'll use Aquafor on them.
posted by katypickle at 2:13 PM on November 16, 2011

Start bathing with a body wash, even just some Suave moisturizing type. Exfoliate - gently but everywhere you get dry skin - every bath. And then drain the tub, stand up, and rinse yourself off with a cup and water from the tap. Rinse your ears and face, also.

After bathing, use lotion and/or oil (Neutrogena Rainbath or drugstore brand version), *then* pat dry gently.

What parts of your ears are hurting? I'm not sure the cause-and-effect situation there is what you think it is. But rinse the soap out of your ears with clean water, if it's causing a problem.

Stop using lip substances with industrial lubricants (anything ending in *cone). I use Cocoa Care cocoa butter balms, but there's lots of options. You're still likely to need it more than once every three days, but without the silicones they probably won't dry to cracking.

A humidifier at home can make a huge difference in dry skin.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:14 PM on November 16, 2011

I do recommend going through some previous AskMes on the subject because you'll find some good suggestions there as well. My general tips:

- Take short baths. Although it's counter-intuitive, long baths/showers actually dry out your skin.
- Use an unscented, moisturizing body wash in the shower. I like Aveeno.
- Unscented, "sensitive skin" EVERYTHING - lotions, soaps, laundry detergent, etc.
- Moisturize often.
- Try to protect your skin from the cold/wind. Wear gloves, scarf, etc.
- Brands to check out are Aveeno, CeraVe, Cetaphil. In particular I like Cetaphil's gentle face wash (they have a couple versions, you want the one for sensitive skin), CeraVe's night moisturizer (but I use it during the day, the only difference between their day and night is that day has sunscreen), Cetaphil's big tub o'cream at night.
- I'm not sure that there is any answer for chapped lips except just smear lip balm on them all the time.
- Are you dunking your head completely under when you are bathing? I'm not sure how you are getting soap in your ear, I suspect it's water. You might want to just do a "European shower" where you squat in the bathtub and wash yourself under the faucet.
- I find that cortisone cream is helpful to fight the winter dry-skin itchies.
posted by radioamy at 2:18 PM on November 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the recommendations so far, folks.

A naive question for the people here who mentioned humidifiers: Would it be dangerous to use a humidifier in a smallish room that has a computer in it?
posted by GlassHeart at 2:22 PM on November 16, 2011

This will sound dumb, but for the longest time I had issues with dry itchy skin in the winter and then I started drinking more water. Like a half gallon of liquid a day. It's not a problem any more.
posted by Anonymous at 2:39 PM on November 16, 2011

I use a humidifier every night in the same room as my computer. Been doing it for years with no problems. Humidifiers are a great suggestion.
posted by jabes at 2:46 PM on November 16, 2011

As far as the smallish room, as long as you can get the humidifier on the opposite side of the room (and I would advise using an ultrasonic humidifier because they "spit" less). OR, if it's a really small room, I love love love my travel humidifier. When I lived in Texas I used great honking 20-hour beasties, but in California in our small house I only occasionally need one and it'll keep a small room plenty damp.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:47 PM on November 16, 2011

One tip I learned that helped with my sensitive dry skin was to just gently pat dry after your shower; toweling off removes moisture and skin cells (that hold moisture in) and is pretty abrasive and irritating.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 2:53 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Kirks castile soap is the same thing as Dr. Bronners but unscented and much, much cheaper. For body moisturizer I can't recommend Cerave enough, they sell it at Costco and one jar lasts a long time. I also use shea moisture products (target, walgreens) and jojoba/ olive oil but Cerave is for really cold and dry times of year.
posted by fshgrl at 2:59 PM on November 16, 2011

L'Occitane Amande Shower Oil - it has completely transformed my skin! Keritosis Pilaris be GONE! Plus soft elbows for the first time ever. It's a bit pricey but it is so, so wonderful.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:00 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would recommend anything with shea butter in it.

Or even better, raw unrefined shea butter. If you can't get it locally, it's available on Amazon. I have super dry skin sensitive to heavy perfumes and the like, and it's indispensable in the winter.
posted by Lorin at 3:09 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: schroedinger: ". . . I started drinking more water. Like a half gallon of liquid a day. It's not a problem any more."

I already do that. Unfortunately, that doesn't help much.
posted by GlassHeart at 3:41 PM on November 16, 2011

I find adding Grahams Bath Oil to my baths really helpful for my dry, sensitive, itchy skin.

For soap, I would recommend either Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar or Grahams Natural Soap
and only soaping your armpits, bottom/area around the anus, groin/pubic hair. The rest can just be washed with warm water, unless you've been sweating/exercising.

Another thing that helps - taking fish oil supplements and eating plenty of nuts and avocado.
posted by Year of meteors at 4:23 PM on November 16, 2011

cetaphil restoraderm body wash and lotion seem to be pretty amazing, and i have really extreme skin. (dry/flaky/crackly/sensitive)

i just started using it recently. it's incredibly rare that i'm impressed by a new lotion/cream, and i've tried a ton of different ones.

2nd what others are saying about using soap minimally, using xtra gentle cleansers/soaps, unscented laundry detergent, etc.

best lip balm i've used is the weleda stuff. expensive for lip balm, but worth it.
posted by JBD at 4:41 PM on November 16, 2011

Lush has some organic, seemingly industrial-strength jojoba oil and rose wax concoction which is totally non-reactive and keeps the dryness away like nothing else I have ever used. It goes on kind of shiny, but that's because it's a shining citadel of 24-hour anti-dryness on your face. Bring it, winter.
posted by idlethink at 4:55 PM on November 16, 2011

Following up on WorkingMyWayHome, after you pat yourself (mostly) dry, apply moisturizer right away. My legs are extra dry and sometimes I don't dry them off at all before I moisturize. Then I wait as long as possible to put on clothes.

I don't know if this is just me making up a story but it makes me feel like sealing in the moisture (given my skin doesn't produce enough oil) and then letting it dry makes it more effective.
posted by hydrobatidae at 6:51 PM on November 16, 2011

I've heard of many friends with similar problems using sorbolene as a body wash. I'm not sure if it is the same stuff as cetaphil, or what brands sell sorbolene in the US, but thought I'd chip in with that info.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:36 PM on November 16, 2011

Cetaphil is terrific. Aveeno hand repair cream is good lotion--not sticky or tacky. In the winter, I put Aquaphor on my hands (it's basically vaseline) and wear cotton gloves.

Remember to moisturize while your skin is still damp.

And, this is the most luxurious thing ever: once a week, pour a gallon of whole milk into your bath. Your skin will be unbelievably soft.
posted by elizeh at 7:38 PM on November 16, 2011

As for your ears--there are silicon putty earplugs you could use to keep the water from getting in.
posted by elizeh at 7:40 PM on November 16, 2011

My guy swears by Aveeno Intense Relief moisturizer and Softsoap Shea Butter hand soap.

I swear by Alba Botanica Very Emollient body lotion.
posted by mirepoix at 7:54 PM on November 16, 2011

I put Vaseline on my lips and use Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion on my hands every night before I go to sleep. I also have a bottle of Bath and Body Works moisturizing hand soap in my bathroom next to the regular soap. I do not recommend using the moisturizing soap right before inserting/removing contacts. Anyway, the lotion and the soap coupled with wearing gloves every time I go outside are the only things I've found that have prevented my hands from cracking and bleeding all winter long.
posted by Nolechick11 at 8:38 PM on November 16, 2011

Avene Cold Cream! They make a hand cream, body wash, chapstick, all sorts of stuff, and it's awesome for sensitive skin.
posted by jnaps at 10:08 PM on November 16, 2011

I like Purpose face wash and not using soap on any spot on my body besides where it is absolutely necessary. You can exfoliate if you feel like you must, but I wouldn't do it more than once a week. Then use whatever lotion suggestion above suits you best. I find that lip balm without petroleum products do a better job for me in terms of preventing winter chapping. However, Chapstick is nice for healing already chapped lips.

Those're my two cents, hope it helps!
posted by Temeraria at 10:13 PM on November 16, 2011

Your culprits:

1. Mainstream soap with SLS. (Sodium Laureth Sulfate or something along those lines.) This is a foaming agent, but it strips skin of moisture and makes it feel dry. It also aggravates eczema. STOP using anything with SLS! In fact, the fewer ingredients, the better. My soap has two: olive oil and salt.

2. Your washing detergent. Go for All Free (if you live in the US/Canada) or Method (US/UK).

3. The lotion you use. Some lotions even have SLS! Thin, watery lotions won't do anything.
I'd go for some type of body butter (like shea, shealoe, mango, avocado, as recommended above) OR Vaseline does a line of gel like moisturizers in the US/UK that are with cocoa butter or aloe vera.

4. Use moisturizer on your ears. You can use the same that you use for your face.

Good brands: L'Occitane (already recommended but watch out for SLS), Lush, Simple (might be UK only), Oliva, Dr Bronners
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:16 AM on November 17, 2011

I use Almond Oil in the winter to moisturize my skin. Works great.

Nthing switching to perfume/dye free detergents. Country Save is great and reasonably priced.

We use Dove Sensitive Skin soap and it seems to work OK.
posted by LittleMy at 4:56 AM on November 17, 2011

I use curel ultra healing lotion. It's the only thing I've found that helps my ridiculously dry skin. For me it has been the stuff of miracles. It's pretty heavy, but I don't generally apply it every day.

I, too, suffer from super, super chapped lips. They crack and bleed and it's horrible (no medical causes that any doctors can find.) I put a generous daub of the curel on my lips at night before I go to sleep, and now I can do okay without constantly having to reapply chapstick during the day. That has made a really big difference for me. I did actually see a doctor about the chapping, received some unguents that did nothing, and stumbled upon the curel thing by accident.

For my face, I use cetaphil, which works really nicely. The curel is too heavy for face use I think.
posted by ZeroDivides at 5:59 AM on November 17, 2011

To revisit your humidifier/computer query - in winter it's actually a good idea - moister air is less static-y and and static is very bad for electronics in general, especially computers.
posted by leslies at 7:20 AM on November 17, 2011

My fiancé is a formulation scientist for a major skin care product on the market. In your case, she'd recommend "a product with a high level of occlusives in the formula". Which in laymans terms means something like a petroleum jelly which is made up of 100% occlusives. Products like that lock in your skins moisture. Smear that stuff on every night before bed and enjoy soft lips and ears.
posted by cad at 5:33 PM on November 17, 2011

This is more relevant for hands, but after trying a lot of different moisturizers for my sometimes super-dry skin, I actually found it made a much bigger difference to just use much less soap when I wash my hands, figuring out just how much I needed to get a good scrub, which was often less than half a "squirt". It required learning the ins and outs of each of my usual soap dispensers (and remembering to pay attention). Also, it was fine to take a decent amount of time scrubbing. That didn't dry me out as much as the quantity.

(The moisturizer I settled on was straight shea butter, which I bought pretty cheaply from the Swanson vitamins website.)
posted by spbmp at 9:41 AM on November 20, 2011

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