During our 60s and 70s, skin can feel dry and irritated. This happens for many reasons, including that skin is thinner and loses water more easily. Medications and medical conditions can also play a role.

There is good news. The right skin care can improve how your skin feels — and looks.

Skin becomes drier with age

If your skin feels dry and irritated, the right skin care can help you feel more comfortable.

Recommended lifestyle change:

Bathe to relieve dry skin. Some simple changes to your bath time can reduce (or alleviate) dry, itchy skin and prevent dry, itchy from becoming a serious problem. Here’s what you can do:

  • Wash with a gentle, fragrance-free, moisturizing bar soap. Doing so will help soothe rather than dry your skin. Moisturizing ingredients that can help reduce dryness include glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and lanolin.
  • Use warm (not hot) water. Hot water strips skin of its natural oils, which can increase skin dryness.
  • Use a soft cloth to wash your skin. A buff puff or bath brush can irritate your skin.
  • Keep your bath or shower short. You may find that you don’t need to bathe every day. When you bathe, keep it short. Take a 5- to 10-minute bath or shower.
  • Pat water gently from your skin after bathing, but leave a bit of water on your skin. Having some water on your skin when you apply moisturizer (next step) helps hydrate your skin.
  • Apply a creamy, fragrance-free moisturizer formulated for dry skin within 3 minutes of bathing and throughout the day. Moisturizing helps ease the dryness and restore your skin’s protective barrier. When your skin feels very dry, dermatologists recommend using an ointment instead of a cream. An ointment does a better job of holding water in your skin than does a cream.

Skip the bath oil

You increase your risk of slips and falls when you use bath oil to moisturize your skin, so it's best to avoid bath oil.

Go fragrance free. Fragrance can irritate your skin. To help heal dry, itchy skin and prevent it from coming back, stop using perfumes, colognes, and skin care products that contain fragrance.

Products that are fragrance free say “fragrance free” on the package.

  1. Fragrance free” and “unscented” have different meanings

    Unscented products can irritate dry skin, as unscented products generally contain a chemical that covers up the smell of other ingredients so that you cannot smell them. Be sure to use fragrance-free products.


    Chang ALS, Chen SC, et al. “A daily skincare regimen with a unique ceramide and filaggrin formulation rapidly improves chronic xerosis, pruritus, and quality of life in older adults.” Geriatr Nurs. Published online Jun 6, 2017. (doi:10.1016/j.gerinurse.2017.05.002. [Epub ahead of print]

    Cowdell F. “Care and management of patients with pruritus.” Nurs Older People. 2009;21(7):35-41.

    Cowdell F. “Promoting skin health in older people.” Nurs Older People. 2010;22(10):21-6.

    Murphree RW. “Impairments in skin integrity.” Nurs Clin North Am. 2017;52(3):405-17.

    Thiele JJ and Gilchrest BA. “Aging skin.” In: Nouri K. Skin Cancer. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., China, 2008:17-29.

    Van Onselen J. “Skin care in the older person: identifying and managing eczema.” Br J Community Nurs. 2011;16(12):576, 578-80, 582.

    White-Chu EF and Reddy M. “Dry skin in the elderly: complexities of a common problem.” Clin Dermatol. 2011;29(1):37-42.

    Written by:
    Paula Ludmann, MS

    Reviewed by:
    Bassel H. Mahmoud, MD, PhD, FAAD
    Kesha Buster, MD FAAD
    Sandy Marchese Johnson, MD, FAAD

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