My skin is dry. Like, really dry. It sends me into scratchy meltdowns all too often, leaving my arms and legs feeling super tight. But the worst thing about having dry skin, in my opinion, is the things it does to my shins. Rather than glossy, glowy skin, more often than not, my shins better resemble a floured work surface—they're covered with a light dusting of dry skin that shows up as this chalky white pallor over the olive skin underneath.
You too? Well, there are a few things that could be causing our common problem—hot showers, shaving, the weather. But seeing as we have no control over the latter and don't plan on giving up a warm shower every morning, there's no point in waiting for our legs to sort themselves out. If you want your flaky shins to be less flaky, now's the time to act. Of course, being extra AF, I've adopted a multi-pronged approach to get the situation in check, but I reckon if you take one or two steps out of my regimen, you'll still see a massive difference in the hydration of your own legs. We even got some expert advice from Joanna Vargas, Celebrity Facialist and Founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skincare Collection. Here's everything I do, from dry brushing to body oil and everything she recommends, too.
Meet the Expert
Joanna Vargas is a celebrity facialist whose client roster includes Mindy Kaling, Jenna Dewan, and Julianne Moore. She has two salons (NYC and L.A.) and is the creator of her eponymous line of skincare.
What Causes Flaky Legs?
According to Joanna Vargas, dry skin on your legs can be caused by a number of things like sun exposure, lack of exfoliation, dry weather, and even airplane travel. Too-hot showers or scented lotions (which usually contain alcohol) can also dry out your skin. The key to keeping your legs flake-free is starting a routine—one where you regularly exfoliate and moisturize.
Use a Dry Brush
A daily dry-brushing ritual will help boost the circulation around your entire body, and the rough bristles will also work to dislodge any rough, dry skin cells clinging onto the surface of the legs. Not only that, but Vargas adds that "Dry brushing increases blood flow, which is healthy, but its main purpose is to stimulate collagen production which will help to thicken the skin and lessen the appearance of fat cells."
Pre-shower, sweep the skin brush in upwards motions. "Start at the tops of the feet and brush upward toward the heart. Dry brushing immediately increases circulation, so you will feel warmer when you are done," she says. "It stimulates your lymphatic system to help move out toxins and bring in good nutrients to every cell in the body." Don't press too hard—it should feel vigorous but not painful.
Think of it as a pre-shower massage. "It’s great for cellulite, collagen, reducing puffiness, and making the skin glow all over. It's old fashioned, but it works!" Vargas continues.
Exfoliate With a Scrub
Super-grainy salt-based body scrubs are all well and good, but I found that the buttery base of & Other Stories' potted scrub added the moisture back into skin while I was still in the shower. The grains are made from pulverized olive kernels and oyster shells—how luxurious. The shells and kernels scrubbed away any dead skin, while the base moisturized and smoothed. Unfortunately, this particular scrub is no longer available, but it's comparable to this one by Shea Moisture, which also has olive kernels in it.
"Exfoliation is my secret weapon to having great skin," Vargas says. You can even make your own scrub at home by combining a cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup coconut oil, and 1/4 cup honey. "The brown sugar is super soft on the skin, but is just strong enough to really clean out your pores. I recommend exfoliating twice per week in summer and once a week for winter." Coconut oil deeply moisturizes, and honey is a known antimicrobial, meaning it fights germs while also having the ability to help heal skin. Plus, these ingredients make an all-natural scrub. A win-win.
Swap to a Body Oil
Ever stopped to consider whether it might be your body wash that's drying out your legs? Quickly make the switch to a nourishing oil-based formula, like Glossier's. Unlike soapy versions, this one won't strip the skin, and it also doesn't linger as an unwanted veil of grease—the oil foams up and washes away, leaving behind only a light hit of hydration. Vargas also says that oil helps soothe troubled skin, not only moisturizing, but also reducing redness and irritation. It'll cleanse your legs of any dirt and dead skin that's built up during the day, and it smells amazing, too.
Look for Ingredients like Salicylic Acid
The salicylic acid in this body oil practically peels back those scaly dead skin cells, and the (completely natural) canary yellow shade of the oil itself applies something like a color filter over legs, making them look brighter and healthier. Not only does salicylic acid help exfoliate away dry skin, it will also help prevent any red bumps or ingrown hairs you may get from shaving or other hair removal methods.
If you want to treat yourself, you can also go to the spa for some serious exfoliation. Vargas offers a full-body exfoliation (with a massage!) using freshly-grated coconut compresses. Talk about paradise.
Go for a Rich Lotion
Don't fancy oiling up? Don't skip the moisturizing step entirely—it's definitely one of the most important parts of keeping dry skin off your legs. Instead, try a sumptuous body lotion like this one from L'Occitane. It's built on a base of shea butter, which swaps that dry, tight feeling for something a lot smoother altogether. Shea butter is also full of amazing ingredients like vitamins A, E, and D.
You can also look for lotions that contain hyaluronic acid, which helps your skin retain moisture. Not only that, but the acid can help combat signs of aging in your skin, keeping it plump and moisturized.
Try a Cooling Spray
While Susanne Kaufmann's clever spray is intended to stop that itchy feeling and revive tired legs (it's a god-send for flights, by the way), the fact that it boosts circulation—along with the hydration provided by sunflower and wheat germ oils—makes it the perfect finishing product for the driest of legs. Plus, it's nearly mess-free since it's a spray. No need to get lotion or oil all over your hands, and it's perfect for situations when you need a quick and reliable dose of hydration.
Are there clinical causes for dry skin on legs?
The dry skin on your legs could also come from a clinical issue such as eczema or psoriasis. It can be hard to tell the difference between a skin disease and regular dry skin since they all have similar symptoms, but if your dry skin persists, you should consult your doctor or dermatologist to find out more.
Can shaving irritate dry skin on legs?
Shaving dry skin may cause irritation, but to prevent this, make sure you use a moisturizing shaving gel. Also, avoid any shaving product with alcohol listed in the first few ingredients because that may further dryness.
Can altering your diet help avoid dryness on legs?
One cause for dry skin on legs could be a vitamin deficiency, specifically vitamin D. You can get vitamin D from a variety of different sources. Consider adding foods like oily fish, milk, and eggs or a daily supplement to your diet if you think you may be suffering from vitamin D deficiency.
Cleveland Clinic. Dry skin: prevention. Updated May 13, 2020
Cleveland Clinic. The truth about dry brushing and what it does for you. Updated January 26, 2015.
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