How to banish dry skin on your legs, according to a dermatologist

Transform dry skin on legs into silky soft pins—just in time for skirt season

A woman in a yellow swimsuit touching her dry skin on legs
(Image credit: Future/Getty images)

Got a dry skin on legs situation? We've all been there. The sun comes out and suddenly it's time to unearth your pins from the leggings, joggers, tights, or whatever you’ve been covering them up in—and that’s when you remember about the dry, ashy skin that's been building up.  

Great, another thing you have to incorporate into your ever-growing skincare routine. But never fear, with our expert advice, handy tips, and genius product suggestions you can get your legs spring-summer ready in no time. And whilst this is all about how to get your legs looking great during the warmer season, that’s not to say that this advice is for a few short months only, because dry skin on your legs happens all year round. If you want to get your skin feeling smooth, silky, and looking radiant then here’s what you need to know. 

A dermatologists guide to dry skin on legs

What causes dry skin on our bodies?

Much like dehydrated skin on our face, on a very basic level dry skin happens when the skin loses too much moisture. Our skin is built up in layers and it needs a certain amount of water and natural oils in the top layers to keep it soft, supple, and hydrated. Not only does our skin need to be able to lock moisture in and prevent it from escaping but it also needs to absorb it. It is a well-oiled and balanced machine. But lots of things can affect it, and when they do, that's when dry skin happens.  

“Dry skin is something we can all experience. It can be due to weather conditions, the products we use, or the clothing we wear. Dry skin can also be a side effect of skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis,” says consultant dermatologist, Dr. Derrick Phillips.  Aging is also a factor—as we get older our body gradually stops producing as much sebum which makes it feel drier and there are also certain medical conditions and medications that cause the skin to become parched. 

How to tell if your legs are dry

The good news is that for lots of people dry skin on their legs starts off in smaller areas. This is because the skin on our legs is different from the rest of our body. “The skin on our legs is a lot stronger than the skin we have on our face and neck so when we get dry skin on our legs the main area it is noticeable is our knees,” says Dr. Phillips. However—and here’s the bad news—“our dermis layers and oil control are vastly different on our legs and the cellular turnover is slower. So, if we suffer from dryness in this area, it will take longer to resolve.” 

And how can you spot it? Dry skin isn't always the nicest thing to look at. "In mildly dry skin, you might have rough, slightly scaly skin that is red and can sometimes be itchy. Moderately dry skin is more scaly, itchy, and red. The skin can become inflamed and crack which can be painful. In severe cases of dry skin, the itching, pain, and scaliness are more intense. The cracked skin can become worse if not treated and this can lead to bleeding in some cases," explains Dr. Phillips

How to treat dry skin on your legs

Dr. Phillips has some pointers for how to revive dry skin on legs. Here they are:

  • Keep it simple: Using gentle soaps and cleansers avoid stripping the natural oils from your skin which helps preserve the skin moisture.
  • Go fragrance-free: Fragrances in products are known to be a leading cause in skin allergies. The harsh chemicals can only sometimes lead to more dryness, flakiness, and redness upon application. 
  • Try Vitamin C:  Even though the skin on our body is different from that on our face, that doesn't mean this skin should be neglected, and more brands are bringing out skincare body products. Vitamin C can brighten the skin, therefore any scarring, dark patches, and stretch marks can be treated using this ingredient. 
  • Pat don’t rub: Being kind to your skin by patting instead of rubbing when drying off will maintain your skin barrier and make a dramatic difference to moisture retention. 
  • Avoid extremes:  Hot and chilly weather or very hot baths and showers can dry out the skin even more so try to avoid if you can.
  • Go see your doctor: If your skin is chronically dry or painful it may be related to a skin condition such as psoriasis or eczema, if your dry skin lingers go and see your GP.

Our favorite products for dry skin on the legs

To cleanse, our beauty editor recommends...

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Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturising Body Wash | RRP: $9.59/£5.99

When it comes to soothing and caring for dry skin, Aveeno always has you covered. This simple, yet super effective, body wash contains colloidal oats which calm dry skin whilst also delivering serious hydration.   

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L'Occitane Almond Shower Oil | RRP: $27/£19.50

An iconic product, and for good reason. This gorgeously golden, silky oil drenches the skin with sweet almond oil that hydrates the skin and helps strengthen the skin barrier. It turns milky when combined with water to make it easy to spread all over so it can work its magic. Eco-friendly refills are also available to ensure you can keep topping up your bottle.

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Eucerin Urea Repair Plus 5% Urea Body Wash | RRP: £15 (UK only)

Containing very gently cleaning agents, this not only cleanses the skin but strengthens the skin's surface. It also contains urea, which helps bind moisture into the skin and provides very gentle exfoliation to help reduce any scaliness. 


To hydrate, our beauty editor recommends...

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CeraVe Moisturising Cream | RRP: $14.95/£12
Combining the three essential ceramides skin needs to be able to retain moisture, this also contains hyaluronic acid which is the moisture-making skincare ingredient. It is a thick, unctuous cream that dry skin will drink up in seconds without leaving any greasy residue or film. It can be used everywhere on the body so it's worth having a tub in your cabinet at all times.

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La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume | RRP: $19.99/£15
One of the issues with dry skin is that it gets itchy, which makes you scratch it, which then makes the dry skin even worse. This genius velvety body balm contains ingredients that take the itch out of your skin, stopping the scratch-itch cycle in its tracks. 

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Necessaire The Body Lotion | RRP: $25/£28

Proving that fragrance-free doesn't have to be boring, this gorgeous body lotion is an absolute pleasure to use. It's creamy and packed with vitamins C, E, and niacinamide to get skin looking and feeling good again. 


To finish, our beauty editor recommends...

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This Works Skin Deep Dry Leg Oil | RRP: $73/£42
If thick creams aren't your thing but you want to hydrate your legs and create a subtle glow at the same time, this award-winning oil is what you need. It contains a mix of 13 essential oils and six plant oils to overdose skin with essential lipids and revive dry, scaly skin. Apply it to slightly damp skin for a luminous sheen that doesn't feel greasy. 

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Nuxe Shimmering Multi-Purpose Dry Oil | RRP: $34.95/£29.50

Create sun-kissed legs and hydrate them at the same time with this dry oil (which means it doesn't feel greasy whatsoever) It can be slathered all over legs, arms, décolleté, and even your hair. A must-have summer beauty buy.

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By Terry Tea to Tan Face & Body | RRP: $88/£59
Give your legs a hit of summer with this instant, non-transferrable bronzer. It contains no tanning agent, lots of which can make dry skin drier but delivers a beautiful bronze color that can be built up to your desired intensity. It's also packed with hydrating ingredients so will deliver some hydration too. Spray directly onto the skin and blend with your hands or buff with a mitt.


woman&home thanks Dr. Derrick Phillips for his time and expertise.

Sarah-Jane Corfield-Smith

Sarah-Jane Corfield-Smith has worked in the beauty industry for more than 15 years and, as well as woman&home, has contributed to titles such as Stylist, The Daily Mail and The Times.

As a mum of two little girls she has limited time to spend on herself, so if you’re looking for hard-working multi-tasking products, she’s the one in the know.

Her top three products she has on her at all times are a glow-giving tinted moisturiser, brow pencil and a tinted lip balm. Oh, and she’s never far away from a hydrating face mist.