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There are many causes of ashy skin, from the weather to underlying medical conditions.

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.

Let’s explore some 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.

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The phrase “ashy skin” is frequently used to describe how dry skin looks on people with darker skin tones. No matter how you describe dry skin, it happens to people of all skin tones.

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.

It’s important to note that ashy skin does not reflect your self-care routine. It’s possible to have ashy skin even with proper treatment.

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, or atopic dermatitis — a skin condition that causes an itchy red rash, most commonly on the arm folds and backs of knees
  • psoriasis, which is an autoimmune disease that leads to pink scaly plaques on the skin, commonly on the knees and elbows

If ashy skin results from 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 soap bar: Dove Beauty Bar for Sensitive Skin.

Moisturize daily

One of the most essential home remedies for ashy skin is moisturizing 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 containing emollients are the best moisturizers 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: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream.

Use plain petroleum jelly

Plain petroleum jelly is the gold standard for locking in moisture and almost never causes 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 Healing Jelly Original.

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.

Daily cleansing may also be beneficial to dry skin. One older 2014 study found that using a mild cleansing bar as part of a daily skin care routine reduced ashy skin in study participants.

Try this sensitive skin cleanser: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser.

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 to restore air moisture.

A single-room humidifier can help keep your skin moisturized and prevent dry, ashy skin.

Try this humidifier: Homasy 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. You may need to drink more than this, depending on your body weight and activity levels. Ask your healthcare professional what amount is appropriate for you.

Visit a doctor

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

After you receive a diagnosis, your skin care professional 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 it from coming back. Consider including these skin care tips in 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. Always use sunscreen to protect your skin, even on cloudy days. Consider using creams or Vaseline for harsh, cold days 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.

However, it is still possible to have ashy skin with proper treatment. Speak with your skin care professional if over-the-counter products are not working.

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 skin care professional can help you find the underlying cause and treatment for your ashy skin.