Doctors call the skin on the outside of the elbow an “extensor surface,” which refers to all the places that have to stretch when you bend your joints (like your knees and knuckles too). That’s why they’re a completely different texture from the rest of your skin. Since most humans do almost everything with their arms, the elbows get rubbed, bumped, and leaned on a whole lot.
#1 Don’t Scratch, Pick, Or Rub It.
“A lot of people, especially with symptoms like scaling, want to pick the skin off,” says dermatologist Sejal Shah, M.D. “That’s aggravating it and makes the skin worse.” And pay attention to the ways you might be inadvertently irritating your elbows too. There are plenty of things people do without realizing how it may be affecting their skin.
#2 If You Have Bumps Or Scales, See A Dermatologist.
You can google your symptoms all you want, but you run the risk of misdiagnosing yourself. If you’ve got something like psoriasis or eczema (both of which commonly appear on elbows and knees) and don’t know it, your self-prescribed treatment might irritate your skin even more.
#3 Moisturize With A Keratolytic Lotion.
That’s a fancy term for ingredients such as lactic acid, urea, and salicylic acid. “Those are going to help take off some of the surface layers of the skin, but they also have a humectant property so they will bring moisture,” Shah says. Just make sure that you really don’t have psoriasis or eczema, she warns, because keratolytics will irritate those conditions.
#4 Hit The Spa.
“There are plenty of spa treatments that will help with dry elbows,” Schneider says. “When treating dry elbows and arms, I recommend starting out with a gentle exfoliant; a microdermabrasion ointment, such as biafine or shea butter; a coconut- or olive oil-based cream; and of course, SPF.”
#5 Choose The Right Natural Remedies.
For those of you who like to get homemade skin-care recipes from the internet, Day has some guidelines: “Avocado oil, coconut oil, or olive oil can help soften that skin,” she says. “I wouldn’t rub lemon on it, because that can make you more sensitive.” The natural cure might be even simpler than you expect—like Schneider’s tip to wear cotton shirts under those cozy-but-scratchy wool sweaters.