What Causes Dry Elbows, And Ways to Get Rid of It

Skin experts reveal the factors behind our dry elbows and how to prevent them.

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Thanks to sporadic weather changes, our skin sure takes a beating – with our elbows being one of the biggest culprits for dry, scaly skin.

We spoke to two skin experts to find out why exactly we're getting dry elbows, and how to treat the annoying problem.

Why do we get dry elbows?

It's all about the glands in your elbows, or lack of, according to Dr Mervyn Patterson, cosmetic dermatologist at Woodford Medical.

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'Skin on the elbow is significantly different to other skin on your body,' he tells us. 'It tends to be much thicker so as to be able to withstand mechanical stretching, and is drier because this area has significantly fewer sebaceous glands, the oil-secreting parts of the skin.'

In general our elbows, and the lower parts of our legs, produce less of the key lipids that are help moisturise the top layer of our skin. This means more unwanted external factors can affect our elbows, and less water is retained in them.

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Dr Noor Almaani, consultant dermatologist at The Private Clinic of Harley Street, told us other unique factors that contribute to dry elbows. These include:

  • Friction, such as from clothes, or when resting the elbows on hard surfaces.
  • General body dehydration.
  • Smoking
  • Hormonal changes, such as the menopause
  • Hereditary conditions, such as eczema

Are dry elbows linked to any other medical condition?

Some conditions and medications can be the cause of your dry skin, too.

Both diabetes and thyroid problems have been linked to dryness of elbows and knees. 'Conditions such as thyroid problems or diabetes disrupt skin function generally and are linked to dry skin all over the body, making dryness on the elbows much worse,' says Dr Patterson.

'Some medications such as vitamin A derivatives are also linked to elbow dryness,' adds Dr Almaani. It's also important to remember that the vast majority of dry elbow cases are not due to other conditions or underlying primary skin disease, but instead the disruption of normal skin. In fact, dry skin and something like psoriasis are two completely different things.

'Psoriasis is a skin disease where the body's own immune system attacks the skin,' Dr Patterson tells us. 'Inflammation is a result of an overproduction of layers of skin cells, which then heap up on each other forming psoriasis plaques.'

Tips to soften scaly, dry elbows:

1. Avoid using soap-based skin cleaning routines, particularly harsh alkaline soaps and surfactants.

2. Try to avoid exfoliating using abrasive creams and glycolic materials.

'For my own clients, I recommend something like Epionce Extreme Barrier

Cream,' Dr Patterson tells us. 'This product is specially formulated

with key lipids and emollients to deeply penetrate and replenish the

lipids that are so deficient in these areas.'

3. Ensuring the skin barrier is intact by using regular greasy moisturisers.

4. Avoid taking long, hot showers. 'This can lead to depletion of intercellular lipids and desiccation of the outermost layer of the skin,' says Dr Almaani.

5. Vigorous rubbing or exfoliation should be avoided. It might be worth using cushions or padded material when resting elbows on hard surfaces for long periods of time.

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