November 2021

Winter is Coming: Natural Medicines for Dry Skin

The winter months are fast-approaching. Along with the colder temperatures comes reduced humidity, increased wind, and constant exposure to dry indoor heat – a recipe for dry skin. It’s important to keep the body’s largest organ moisturized. In addition to regularly using moisturizers and lotions, guide patients towards products with ingredients that can actually help.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are a great place to start. While often promoted for aging skin, there’s also evidence that applying lotions or creams containing lactic acid, a specific AHA, can improve dry skin. It’s likely safe for most people when applied to the body once or twice a day. For use on the face, tell patients to stick to products with concentrations of less than 10%. Higher concentrations can cause skin irritation and should only be used under the care of a dermatologist.

Coconut oil is another one to consider. Applying it to the skin twice daily seems to improve skin moisture in people with dry skin. Using 100% coconut oil on the skin seems to be safe for most people. But most studies have used products containing 70% coconut oil.

Aloe is a popular ingredient in many moisturizing products. Despite its popularity, research on its benefits is actually mixed. Applying products containing aloe might help some measures of dry skin, but because studied formulations are so varied, it’s not clear if it really helps. Similarly, lotions that contain colloidal oatmeal, such as the popular product Aveeno, don’t seem to improve dry skin any more than other lotion products.

You might also get questions about collagen peptides. Collagen products in general are all the rage for skin health – particularly related to aging skin. There’s evidence that taking collagen peptides by mouth can improve skin hydration and elasticity, but it doesn’t seem to improve skin moisture. For now, it likely isn’t worth spending money on these products for dry skin when cheaper, proven options are available instead.

To learn more, check out our monographs for more details on natural medicines studied for dry skin.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.