What Is Ashy Skin? – How to Treat This Dry Skin Condition

What is ashy skin and how do you treat it? Read these tips to get rid of this scaly dry skin condition. Do You Have Ashy Skin? Learn How to Treat This Dry Skin Condition.

If you’re African-American or are of African descent, you’ve probably heard the term “ashy skin.” There are a lot of fancy scientific terms to describe this skin condition: keratinized dehydrated disorder, xerosis or asteatosis, but the ashy skin is simply very dry skin. This dry skin takes on a whitish or grayish coloring (much like ashes left after something has been burned, hence the term) that appears on the brown and dark skin.

ashy skin
Do You Have Ashy Skin? Learn How to Treat This Dry Skin Condition. Jamie Grill/Getty Images.

All skin tones can experience “ashiness.” Caucasian and pale Asian skin can look chalky from dead cells on its surface; it’s just that the dead skin cells are more noticeable on darker skin. Some dermatologists also suggest that black skin sheds and flakes more easily than other skin tones.

Ashy skin is commonly found on arms, elbows, lower legs, knees and heels.

Dry ashy skin is not a serious condition, but like dandruff, it can be embarrassing. No one wants those noticeable flakes that whiten the skin, giving it a dull, unhealthy appearance. Also like dandruff, it can get onto clothing.

What Causes Ashen-Skin?

As dead skin cells are scattered from the surface of the skin, the body produces new skin cells below the surface. Those cells travel up through the epidermis until they reach the top layer (the stratum corneum). The new skin cells push the older cells off. Seldom these dead skin cells accumulate, forming dry scales that don’t accurately go through the skin’s natural exfoliation process and forms a barrier that makes the skin look dull and incapable of absorbing moisturizers.

This situation also occurs when the skin doesn’t have enough natural water to keep it smooth and supple and then when the outer layer of the skin loses a lot of moisture. That can mainly occur in dry, arid climates or during the winter when the cold, dry air strips the skin of water leaving it rough and flaky.

Treatments for Ashy Skin

There are mainly two important things to think about when choosing and using products for dry ashy skin: The products should be mild and moisturizing.

Use gentle products. Avoid products with alcohol or that can be drying and irritating to the skin like deodorant soaps and harsh scrubs.

Use mild cleansers. Soap-based cleansers are alkaline and therefore can cause dryness and damage to the skin by stripping the lipid layer (the barrier that keeps natural moisture in the skin).

Try lactic acid. Try a product that includes lactic acid like Amlactin, which will exfoliate the skin, while also hydrating and improving skin texture.

RX for Ashy Skin. In severe cases, you might need a prescription strength product with salicylic acid to slough and smooth out ashy skin.

Ash-Free Skin Care Tips

  • No long, baths and hot showers. This strips skin of its natural oils. You may use warm water during the bathing and showering. Avoid soaking for a long time in the tub, particularly during the dry winter months.
  • While cleansing, you may use fragrance-free and non-deodorant bar soap or even a moisturizing body wash.
  • Be sure to exfoliate the skin regularly. Exfoliate the skin 1 to 2 times a week with a gentle exfoliating cleanser.
  • When you are finished with showering or bathing, pat skin with a towel and leaving it a little damp. Then immediately apply moisturizer.
  • Seasonal changes in weather humidity and temperature can be a trigger for ashiness. The dry, indoor heat also can rob the skin of moisture. In this case, use a humidifier during winter periods or year-round if you live in a dry climate.

For more help to prevent ashiness, read these 18 tips for dry, winter skin.

Oily & Ashy Skin?

  • If you have oily skin, yet are seeing ashy patches on your face or other some areas of the body, you can try to use a gentle exfoliant about three times a week for getting rid of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin.
  • You can use a lightweight oil free moisturizer to heal the dry parts and patches. Also, use a facial moisturizer made for oily skin that has glycerin and/or other humectants that form moisture to the skin without clogging the pores or giving skin a greasy feel.
  • Don’t over-moisturize which will only aggravate oily skin.

If you are still suffering from itchy, dry skin in spite of following these skin care tips, see a dermatologist to make sure the condition is not from allergies or a skin condition like psoriasis or eczema.

How to Get Rid of Ashy Skin – 5 Tips to Get Rid of Ashy Skin

Many people are asking how to get rid of ashy skin and many are dealing with annoying ashy skin, at least in the winter months. Here are five ways that you can fight back and prevent dry skin.

How to Get Rid of Ashy Skin
How to Get Rid of Ashy Skin. Getty Images/Asia Images.

Ashy skin is a problem that people often deal with during the fall and winter when dry skin is most common. The term “ashy” refers to what is simply just overly dry skin, so dry that it actually appears white or flaky. This is especially noticeable with people who have deeper skin tones, and it can be annoying or even embarrassing.

Ashy skin often appears on the lower legs, elbows, knees, arms, and heels.

Here are some tips about how to treat and prevent ashy skin.

Look at the Ingredients on Your Skin Care Products

Even if a product claims to be hydrating, it can really be drying to your skin, depending on the ingredient list. Try to avoid products with alcohol in them. Alcohol is extremely drying to the skin and will only exacerbate the appearance of dry ashy skin.

Other ingredients to watch out for including artificial fragrances and SLS’s – sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate – which are known for their stripping quality. You may have heard of SLS-free shampoo for color-treated hair because it doesn’t strip the hair. It’s the same with skin care products with SLS.

Ingredients are listed in order of how much is in the product, so looking at the first five ingredients can be very telling. Does it have ingredients such as oils, butters, lanolin or petrolatum? These are all great for giving your skin a large dose of lasting moisture.

Desperate for something that really works? Ditch the products and use a straight butter or oil.

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Turn the Hot Water Down in Your Shower

Hot water only dries skin out more, especially if you take extra-long showers. Use warm water instead of hot when bathing, and try not to soak in the tub for too long. This is particularly important during the month’s winter when the air is already much drier.

Apply a thick body cream or coconut oil right after you dry off to lock in the moisture your body absorbed from your shower or bath.

Exfoliate on a Weekly or Bi-Weekly Basis

Exfoliate your skin even if you don’t have ashy black skin; however, exfoliation is particularly important for dry, skin. Part of the ashy look is caused by the buildup of dead skin cells which are visible on the surface of the skin. They can just be removed by using a gentle scrub once or twice a week in the shower.

Use a Humidifier

Winter air is terrible for dry skin because it lacks moisture and leaves us all with parched, itchy skin. The heat we use to warm our homes during the winter months also dries out skin. Try combating this with a humidifier which will help keep the moisture levels in your home at a higher level and will directly help the itch-factor of your skin. A cold water humidifier keeps mold and bacteria from growing in your humidifier.

Drink Plenty of Water

You may hear it all the time, but do it! Drinking enough water can help your skin stay plump and moist, hydrating your body from the inside out. Our skin needs the moisture from the inside just as much as it needs it on the outside, so drink up!

How to Get Rid of Dark, Ashy and Saggy Knees

Getting Smooth and Beautiful Knees
Try these tips for youthful-looking, beautiful knees. Photo Credit: Photo: Yuri_Arcurs/E+/Getty Images

Knee Deep: All About Getting Smooth and Beautiful Knees

Do you dread wearing short dresses and shorts because of ashy, discolored or saggy knees? Are your knees noticeably darker than the rest of the skin on your legs?

Since there are no oil glands on the knees, the skin can become dry, rough and ashy. Some people of color can have dark joints, including knee joints, due to genetics or even medical conditions.

Oh, the poor, battered knees. We crawl on them as infants, fall on them as children and neglect them as adults.

Rough treatment of knees—kneeling on hard floors while cleaning out the bathtub, gardening or when exercising—doesn’t help.

Keep reading to find out how to care for your knees:

Recipes to fade knee discoloration >>

Using honey for soft and smooth knees >>

Skin care tips for your knees >>

How to prevent saggy skin on the knees >>

Recipes to Fade Dark Knee Discoloration

Recipes to Fade Dark Knee Discoloration
Exfoliating sponge, moisturizer, salt and sugar scrub and lemon for great looking knees. Photo Credit: Photo: Chris Gramly/E+/Getty Images

Rub lemon slices onto the knees and leave on for three hours. Wash off and then apply moisturizer. Do that two to three times a week.

Once or twice a week, prior to bathing or showering, you can add an exfoliating step and give your knees a gentle scrubbing. Do not aggressively scrub the knees. We tend to think that the knees and elbows have tougher skin, but the skin in these areas is different so that the joints can move.

If you scrub the skin too rigorously or too frequently, you could actually damage the skin and cause the discoloration to get darker.

Some people exfoliate the area daily until the skin lightens, but if you feel stinging or irritation or the skin is getting extremely dry, decrease the amount of exfoliation. Avoid lemon and salt on severely cracked skin.

For more information read our article Help for Winter Dry Skin Rash

More About Exfoliation

After bathing, gently massage mustard oil onto the knees for 5 – 10 minutes, then wash off with warm water. Note: Use only cold pressed mustard oil, not essential mustard oil, which is a skin irritant.

Two more recipes to fade discolorations >>

The Bee’s Knees: 2 Honey Recipes for Soft and Smooth Knees

Honey Recipes for Soft and Smooth Knees
Bee’s knees: use honey to soften the skin on your knees. Photo Credit: Photo: Andy Roberts/The Image Bank
  • Mix together 1 teaspoon of lemon juice with a teaspoon of honey and rub the mixture onto the knees for 10 minutes. The honey keeps the area soft and prevents too much dryness from the lemon.
  • Mix one part honey with one part sour cream. Apply the honey and sour cream mixture to the knees. Leave on for 15 – 20 minutes and wipe off with a damp cloth and then rinse.

Skin Care for Your Knees

Skin Care for Your Knees
Take good care of your knees. Photo Credit: Photo: Lisa Gagne/Vetta/Getty Images

Once you have lightened the area, be sure to exfoliate the knees regularly and massage with vitamin E oil or natural oils such as almond, coconut, olive, or sesame oil (which also contain vitamin E and are reparative to the skin). Keep the knee darkness from worsening by applying sunscreen whenever you knees will be exposed to sunlight.

More Information About Sunscreen

No More Knee Jerk Reactions

When you have to be on your knees, be sure to protect them. Use soft clothing, cushions, anything that will protect them from hard floors or other surfaces or when you will be kneeling for a long length of time doing gardening, housework, yoga and other activities. Wear kneepads when taking part in games or sports, such as skating, in which there is a possibility of falling onto your knees and causing bruising or abrasions.

How to Prevent Saggy Knees

How to Prevent Saggy Knees
Do squats to help prevent getting saggy knees. Photo Credit: Photo: Craig Brewer/Photographer’s Choice RF/Getty Images

The skin around the knees allow your the joints to bend freely, but as you age, collagen and elastin production decreases and this can lead to saggy skin. To help prevent this from happening, firm up the quadriceps, the muscles near the knees. Building up the quadriceps will tone the area around the knees and improve their appearance by filling out sagging skin.


  • 1. Squat as though you are about to sit down. Make sure that when you descend that your knees are directly above your feet, but don’t allow the knees to move past the toes.
  • 2. Squat as far as you can and slowly rise back up. Repeat.
  • 3. Start with two sets of 12 to 15 squats each. If this is difficult, you can hold onto the back of a chair for balance until you are strong enough to do the exercise on your own.
  • 4. When the squats get easier, you can add a third set and also add weights (beginning with 3 to 5-pound dumbbells and working up to more weight.)
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