Dry, Red Elbows

Psoriasis on elbow
Woman pointing to a dry, red elbow. (Image: Suze777/iStock/Getty Images)

When the skin on your elbows becomes dry and red, symptoms such as itching, swelling and pain can be difficult to bear. Your elbow skin is subject to increased moisture loss because of its location on the body. Knowing common at-home and medical remedies to care for the dry, red skin can help you find relief.

Causes

Dry, red elbow skin is more prevalent in the winter because of the lack of moisture in the air. The dry air can cause skin discoloration, notes New York City dermatologist Albert Lefkovits in "Cosmopolitan." Because the elbows also crease more than other skin areas, frequent creasing and uncreasing can lead to skin chapping. Additional contributing factors include taking long, hot baths or showers, or using harsh soaps and laundry detergents.

Home Remedies

Itchy elbow skin can be treated with at-home remedies including milk, says Sharon Faelten, editor of “The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Women.” Dip a washcloth into cold milk and apply over the elbow. Leave on for five minutes. The milk and cold temperature have anti-inflammatory properties that may help relieve itching, says Faelten. Reapply throughout the day as needed. Another at-home remedy involves taking a soak in the bathtub or shower until your skin appears pruned. Towel dry off and apply a layer of oil. Vegetable shortening is a good example. Then, wear a long-sleeve shirt or pajamas to seal in moisture overnight.

Treatment

Applying moisturizer twice daily is important to treating dry, red elbows. Using a lactic acid-moisturizer can help to exfoliate dead, dry skin from the elbows while infusing moisture into the skin. Baby oil also may be used to seal in moisture. Use an exfoliating cream or pumice stone to gently remove dead skin and reduce overall dryness symptoms. If you experience dry, red elbows because of eczema or psoriasis -- skin conditions that cause red patches to develop -- you may wish to apply a hydrocortisone cream for a few days to reduce irritation. Avoid harsh soaps that can irritate your sensitive skin.

Time Frame

If you do not experience an improvement in the condition of your dry, red elbows after at-home care, if your dry skin interferes with daily activities, if you have open sores from scratching or if your skin is peeling in large areas, you may need to see a physician. Your physician may prescribe more intense treatments that can help your elbow skin to heal quickly.

Warning

Avoid excessively itching the skin when you experience red, dry elbows as this can draw blood. If you scratch excessively, exposed areas of skin can become infected or scarred. Use moisturizing treatments to cut down on itching. You can wear socks on your hands or soft gloves at night to prevent itching while you are asleep.

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