How to Moisturize Your Elbows

Young woman massaging and applying a moisturizer to her elbow.
Beautiful Skin Image Gallery Elbows are especially prone to dry skin. See more pictures of ways to get beautiful skin.
Š L. Pomares G.

No one wants to spend time fretting over dry, itchy elbows. Yet, that sandpaper feel, the unsightly scaly patches of skin and those snags along the sleeves of some of your favorite shirts and sweaters leave you doing just that. Face it, the problem is probably not going to go away on its own. Fortunately, you can solve your elbow woes by following a few simple skin care steps.

The skin's moisture supply is naturally compromised by age, weather, hormones, and in some cases, heredity. If your grandfather or mother had severely dry skin such as flaky psoriasis or stubborn redness and itchiness caused by dermatitis, chances are high that you're next in line [source: Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists]. But even if there is no family history of excessive dryness of the skin, tougher skin areas such as elbows are par for the parched-skin course.


Elbows can sometimes be the first place dryness appears. And they can be a repeat source of frustration, if you're predisposed to flaky skin. Elbows, like heels, can dry out faster than any other part of your body due to how we use them and their location on our bodies.

Your body can't always work fast enough to slough off dry skin that collects on your elbows. It needs some help -- meaning you need to put a little, well, elbow grease into your elbows. But what exactly do you need to do? That's easy - exfoliate and moisturize. To do this, you don't necessarily have to leave your home - remedies might be as close as your kitchen. But a trip to the local pharmacy might be in order, too, depending on the severity of your situation [source: Mayo Clinic].

Keep reading and get ready to attend to these hard-to-tackle spots with tips and household tricks that can repair and turn around your toughest skin challenge.


Tips for Moisturizing Itchy Elbows

Rough, dry elbows are unsightly, making short-sleeved and sleeveless tops a fashion don't. But they can also be a hassle when you put on tops with sleeves -- especially if the fabric is delicate or easily picked. All of this can be even more difficult to bear if the dryness is accompanied by itchiness.

To alleviate the incessant itching, try applying cool compresses to your elbows. Another home remedy involves soaking or saturating your elbows in milk to relieve dryness and itching. Experts also suggest non-prescription hydrocortisone cream to offer relief. Once the itching is under control, it's time to think about exfoliants and moisturizers. Milk isn't the only kitchen item that might come in handy. In fact, for these tough-to-soothe areas, home remedies can be just as beneficial as some of those specialty products with fancy price tags are. For example, sugar and salt can both be used as exfoliants. To make a quick homemade sugar scrub, simply mix some sugar, olive oil and lemon juice together, or try adding some sugar to your favorite body lotion until it feels a little gritty [source: Goldstein]. Short on time? Just halve a lemon, sprinkle some salt on the pulp and rub it on your elbow kind of like you would chalk a pool cue. Afterward, give your elbows a quick rinse and follow with some olive or safflower oil as a moisturizer [Goldstein].


Moving from the kitchen to the bath, the biggest tip is timing. Before your skin is completely dry after a shower, try applying baby oil, petroleum jelly, mineral oil-based products or a creamy over-the-counter body moisturizer. If you're using petroleum jelly, experts say you can apply it as you step out of the shower and use a towel to remove any excess jelly [source: WebMD].

Removing irritants from your skin care routine is another dry-skin combatant. Your environment and changes in the products you use daily can make a big difference. To reduce irritation and itching, try using dye- and fragrance-free soaps, detergents and fabric softeners. For clothing and blankets, choose cotton versus wool. If you find that your skin is particularly dry during the winter months, use a humidifier in your home to add more moisture to the air [source: Mayo Clinic].

If after trying a variety of exfoliants and moisturizers, you still aren't finding any relief or positive results, you may need to call a dermatologist. Your physician will know if your dry elbow skin is related to a more serious condition [source: Mayo Clinic].

To learn more about moisturizing and skin care, look over the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Skin Care Questions

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Itching: Causes and Treatment." 2009 (Accessed 9/4/09)
  • Fries, Wendy C. "Menopause and Dry Skin: The Hormone Connection." WebMD. 3/6/09. (Accessed 9/4/09)
  • Goldstein, Laura. "Two Ways to Soften Skin." Prevention vol. 54, no. 3, 2002. Accessed online via Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (Accessed 10/8/09)
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. "Dry Skin." Mayo Clinic. 11/26/08. (Accessed 9/4/09)
  • Natural Health. "Solving Winter Skin Woes: Before the Temperature and Humidity Start Their Annual Descent, Get Ready For the Cold Weather with These Skin-Saving Tips." November 2004. (Accessed 9/6/09);col1
  • Summers, Robert S., et al. "The Effect of Lipids, With and Without Humectant, on Skin Xerosis." Journal of Society of Cosmetic Chemists. January/February. vol. 47. 1996. (Accessed 9/4/09)
  • WebMD. "Psoriasis." 12/10/07. (Accessed 9/4/09)
  • WebMD. "Atopic Dermatitis - Symptoms." 5/5/08. (Accessed 9/4/09)