Share on Pinterest

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Dry skin, sometimes known as ashy skin, can affect different parts of your body. For some people, dry skin is only a minor annoyance. For others, it can lead to uncomfortable itching, cracking, or burning. There are many causes of ashy skin, from the weather to underlying medical conditions.

Let’s explore some of the causes of ashy skin, how to treat it, and ways to prevent it. We will also explore daily habits that can help keep your skin moisturized.

The phrase “ashy skin” is another way to describe how dry skin looks on people with a darker skin tone. No matter how you describe dry skin, it happens to people of all races and skin types.

With ashy skin, you may notice that your skin:

  • looks gray or ashy
  • feels rough or bumpy to the touch
  • has thin, cracked lines, especially on the knees or elbows

Depending on how dry your skin is, you may also notice that your skin is cracked, bleeding, flaking, or peeling.

Ashy skin is caused by a lack of moisture, which leaves your skin dehydrated. It can appear on essentially any part of your skin. It’s also common for the skin on your arms, legs, and face to become dehydrated and ashy.

Most of the causes of ashy skin are environmental. This includes:

  • cold, harsh weather, when the temperature is low and the air lacks humidity
  • hot water from baths and showers and prolonged water exposure
  • personal products, such as soaps, lotions, and detergents, that contain harsh chemicals

All these things can cause your skin to dry out and appear ashy. In some cases, ashy skin may also be caused by underlying medical conditions, such as:

  • irritant contact dermatitis, which happens when an irritating substance affects the skin and causes it to become inflamed and dry
  • eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, a skin condition that causes an itchy red rash, most commonly on the arm folds and backs of the knees
  • psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that leads to pink scaly plaques on the skin, commonly on the knees and elbows

If ashy skin is the result of just dryness, then treatment involves adding a few extra steps to your daily skin care routine. Consider trying the following at-home remedies to treat your ashy skin.

Change your bathing habits

Consider taking baths or showers with warm or lukewarm water (instead of hot) and limit the amount of time you spend in the water. If your shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner contain harsh chemicals and fragrances, consider switching them for gentler products.

Try this sensitive skin body wash: Vanicream’s Free & Clear Liquid Cleanser

Moisturize daily

One of the most essential home remedies for ashy skin is to moisturize daily. You should moisturize your skin right after the bath or shower and before spending time outside in harsh, dry, or cold weather.

There are many different types of moisturizers on the market, but creams and ointments that contain emollients are the best type of moisturizer for dry skin. Cetaphil, CeraVe, Vaseline, and Aveeno are all recommended topicals that can be used for dry, ashy skin. Lotions are not preferred since they do not lock in much moisture.

Try this daily moisturizer: Cetaphil’s Daily Hydrating Lotion with Hyaluronic Acid

Use plain petroleum jelly

Plain petroleum jelly is the gold standard for locking in moisture, and it almost never causes any irritation. The downside is that it’s not cosmetically appealing since it’s very greasy. Do not use it on the face, since it can cause acne.

Try plain vaseline: Vaseline’s 100% Pure Petroleum Jelly Skin Protectant

Use sensitive skin products

Harsh chemicals in skin care products can contribute to dry skin. It’s important to use gentle topicals and cleansers on your skin.

In fact, daily cleansing may also be beneficial to dry skin. One study found that using a mild cleansing bar as part of a daily skin care routine was able to reduce ashy skin in study participants.

Try this sensitive skin cleansing bar: Dove’s Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar

Try a humidifier

Constantly running the heat in your home during the winter can cause your skin to dry out. Humidifiers can be especially helpful during the winter months to restore moisture to the air. Using a single-room humidifier can help to keep your skin moisturized and prevent dry, ashy skin.

Try this humidifier: Vicks’ Filter Free Cool Mist Humidifier

Drink enough water

You should also make sure to drink plenty of water each day. This will prevent your skin from becoming dehydrated.

Aim to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. Depending on your body weight and activity levels, you may need to drink more than this. Ask your doctor what amount is appropriate for you.

Visit a doctor

If your ashy skin is uncomfortable, itchy, red, or looks infected, consider visiting your doctor. They can help you determine if there’s an underlying medical cause or skin condition.

After you receive a diagnosis, your doctor can prescribe medicated topicals or other treatments to help return your skin to a healthy, moisturized state.

If you’ve already begun treating your dry, ashy skin, you may be wondering how to prevent ashy skin from coming back. Consider including these skin care tips into your daily routine:

  • Moisturize daily, especially before bed and after bathing. This can help ensure that you maintain soft, moisturized skin.
  • Follow a healthy skin routine. This may involve using hydrating creams, fragrance-free sensitive soaps, and proper bathing.
  • Turn your humidifier on before bed. If you have a humidifier with a timer or a low setting, consider giving your bedroom a little extra moisture overnight.
  • Protect your skin when leaving the house. On hot, sunny days, always use a sunscreen to keep your skin protected. For harsh, cold days, consider using creams or vaseline to protect your skin from the elements.

Incorporating these tips into your daily lifestyle can help to keep your skin moisturized and protected from dehydration and ashiness.

Ashy skin is relatively common and happens when your skin becomes dry or dehydrated. There are many causes of ashy skin, including harsh weather, irritating skin products, or underlying skin conditions.

Treatment for ashy skin includes hydrating the skin with gentle creams and using sensitive soaps, as well as other lifestyle changes. If you feel that your dry skin is not getting better with at-home remedies, your doctor can help you find the underlying cause and treatment for your ashy skin.