How to Moisturize Dry Skin

  • Makeup
  • October 10, 2005
  • Updated June 15, 2020
Woman looking in the mirror in the bathroom

The key to moisturizing dry skin isn’t expensive spa treatments, but mostly just taking care of your skin on a daily basis. To start, here are three tips on how to moisturize dry skin:

1. Wash

One of the biggest culprits of dry skin are soaps that dry out your skin. Look for moisturizer based soaps made out of the “butters.”

woman washing face
Healthy woman washing her face

2. Exfoliate

The removal of dry dead skin cells is important because it allows newer, healthier skin to thrive. For daily exfoliation, purchase a plastic mesh body sponge (you find them at most drugstores for well under $5). You should exfoliate your skin using a gentle body exfoliation cream, like The Body Shop’s Cocoa Butter Body Scrub 2 to 3 times per week.

3. Protect

Now that you removed the bad stuff and exposed the good, you need to protect your skin with a thick, non-pore clogging moisturizer. Some people swear by petroleum jelly brands like Vaseline (which we cover below and can clog pores). But brands like Neutrogena and The Body Shop’s line of lightweight butters (I really like the Mango Body Butter) are excellent choices that are also budget friendly moisturizers.

On a bit more expensive side, try brands like LUSH and Crab Tree & Evelyn (C&E’s new citrus line of products are amazing).

Also using sunscreen, even in the winter, is a major component of protecting your skin. Constant sun damage, leads to a break down in skin cells, which among other things, can dry out your skin.

Look for a body moisturizer that has at least spf 15  and/or mix in a bot of sunscreen with your regular moisturizer.

4. Maintain

Drinking water (at least 8 glasses a day), really is the best way to help maintain moisturized skin.

How to Moisturize Dry Skin: To Vaseline or Not to Vaseline

The secret to fabulous skin doesn’t lie in a $150 bottle of La Mer, but in a $3 tub of Vaseline. Now before you send me angry emails about clogged pores and La Mer related miracles, hear me out.

Vaseline has been the secret beauty weapon of African-American women for generations. It’s a a make-up remover, skin softerner, hair gel, and sun burn soother. It can even be used as a smile enhancer (rub a little underneath your upper lip).

Ageless beauties like Beverly Johnson and Lena Horne, both of whom could afford to drop big dough on expensive moisturizers, opt for Vaseline to moisturize their dry skin. I bet you even Oprah’s got a bottle or two in each of her fabulous houses.

jar of generic petroleum jelly
butter 1

Now if you’re still not sure about the powers of Vaseline, try these alternatives, available at your local drugstore, Target, and Wal-Mart (except for the Mango Body Butter):

Johnson’s Baby Oil Gel

This lightweight moisturizing gel will leave your skin feeling as soft as baby. Try the chamiolle scented version after a relaxing bath.

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula, Moisturizing Body Oil with Vitamin E

This is a great smelling cocoa butter oil that’s easier to use than ultra thick solid versions. Use it right after you get out of the shower.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Aquaphor is a great alternative for those with extremely dry, chapped skin who want the moisturizing benefits of Vaseline, without the ultra heavy thickness.

The Body Shop’s Mango Body Butter

This is one of my favorite moisturizers  for dry skin. This rich mixture of shea nut butter and sweet almond oil is a great smelling, creamy, and can be found online at or at your local Body Shop.

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    Catherine Brock

    As a Southern California transplant now living in the Midwest, Catherine has turned layering into an art form and accepted that UGGs actually do have a place in the stylish lady's wardrobe. She's been featured in Woman's World Magazine,, Refinery29, and has made appearances on ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis, KCAL9 Los Angeles, Fox19 Cincinnati, WGN TV Chicago and WCPO TV Cincinnati.

    Blog Comments

    Hi there
    I know that Vaseline has been used for eons but truly the negative effects of applying petroleum to your skin and lips has been well-documented. *(had to help a child do research on this 2 years ago for a science project). While initially it seals in moisture, the petroleum based part of the formula actually dehydrates the tissue causing you to apply and reapply over and over. It’s not good for the skin and if you talk to holistic skincare pros like Kirstin from Saffron Rouge, the online holistic skincare store (it’s her store and she’s exceptionally knowledgeable) and other people within the organic/natural foods industry, petroleum-based products aren’t good for the skin, body or environment.
    sorry to go on so long

    Another great Vaseline product is Gentle Breeze Moisturizing Bath Beads. It’s great for a bath, spa and pedicure or manicures. You don’t come out feeling greasy and it doesn’t leave a ring around your tub. The best thing about is that it’s a cheap way to keep your skin looking moisturized during the winter months.

    It also comes in foaming creme bath and in different scents.

    I disagree with anything a “holistic” person says, they are not doctors, they are mis-leading people into believing what they believe to be true. I couldn’t believe when I walked into a “natural” food store, the women is trying to tell me that the vitamins my doctor prescribed for my toddler contains flouride and that causes cancer, well let me tell you something, everything is bad for you, there is someone out there that finds something wrong with everything. If a product works for you, great if not, oh well every person is different and we must abide by that.

    I totally agree with Rina.  As holistic professionals may offer good alternatives, vitamins are vitamins.  I have a degree in biochemistry, and believe me, once a vitamin is synthesised, regardless of their derivative, the final molecular formula of the vitamin is the same, thus “natural” vitamins and pharmaceutical ones are the same.

    I would just like to clarify a small point about applying Vaseline, which is petroleum jelly, to a sunburn….point blank, it is a very bad idea.  Petroleum=oil.  Applying oil to a burn of any kind, be it sun or other, ESPECIALLY when the burnt skin hasn’t cooled (which, in the case of a sunburn can take several days) can do much more harm than good.  Vaseline can act as a barrier trapping in the heat, resulting in a burn that is worse than the one you started out with. The best thing to do for sunburn is to wear sunscreen and not get one….but if you do, wait until your skin has cooled (as in it doesn’t feel hotter than the rest of your body) and apply a pure aloe gel to the area for a couple of days.

    as a stubborn spring breaker who didn’t wear sunblock the first day at the beach in miami, i woke up the next morning with a face that turned in to one huge blister (no joke).  After getting useless advice from the pharmacist at walgreens, i called my dermatologist friend…her advice: coat face in vasoline and then apply sunscreen and clear aloe and keep face constantly coated…by the time i was boarding the plane 3 days later the blisters, red, even all of the peeling were completely healed…my family didnt believe i was ever burnt like i said and my friends who had gotten minor sunburn were still burnt and peeled for the next week…Moral of the story…Vasaline is a miracle worker

    I agree with Stevie.  Petroleum based products do dry out tissue, causing you to reapply it.

    Ihave very sentive skin and the use of vaseline has been my standby for years.It is more effective
    than some of the more expensive products which seem to irritate my skin.I’m glad to hear someone
    else endorse the use of vaseline.I have enjoyed
    reading all of the comments.

    My grandma was a big believer in Vaseline until I gave her a body mix of shea and cocoa, she throughout her Vaseline like it was old news. she said all these years she thought Vaseline was the thing, but I gave her Butter for the Body by and I now I have to send her one every two month.

    The Budget Fashionista

    I understand all of your concerns- but ALMOST EVERY African American supermodel/star/etc. Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Beverly Johnson, Lena Horne, Patti La Belle, etc. swears by vaseline and have been using it for years. Everyone in my family has been using it for generations and their skin is perfect. I think it may not be the best product for every skin type (never use it on oily skin) and there might be some better options.. but for the price, vaseline is THE budget moisturizer

    Is it okay to use Vaseline as facial moisturizer?

    I’ve heard that Crisco is a good moisturizer.  I think it would be way better than vaseline.



    My family member has been using vaseline forever and is continually told how young she looks!

    Vaseline is good when you remove make up. I like to use it aroung my eyes.  It helps keep the skin around my eyes soft and you don’t have to worry about being rough when removing eye make-up. But everyone has different skin types.  If it works for you, great.  But if not, find something that works and stick with it.  🙂


    You can use vaseline as a facial moisturizer (which is what this post is about). In fact it is often used by skiers to help protect their faces from cold winds.

    I have to agree my mother turned 55 last week and she looks about 40. She does not have one wrinkle, not one! Not only is it a great facial moisturizer, but it also works wonders on dry and abused feet.

    AA supermodels and stars just like the rest of us may have grown up on petroleum jelly aka vaseline because of ignorance. Corporations told us to use petroleum waste by product was a great moisturizer for our skin and we took their word for it. Yes we all have mothers/grandmothers/aunts, etc., who spent a lifetime using this stuff for lack of knowledge of anything else and the fact that their skin and hair still looks good anyway is more about diet and genetics than the petroleum jelly. The best things for our skin are unrefined plant oils and butters. In short you’re much better off using things like shea butter, cocoa butter, castor oil, olive oil, or coconut oil. You should use these straight or mix them yourself. Don’t go to the store and buy pre-mixed “body butters” that are composed of a teaspoon of the good stuff in a vat of mineral oil, other chemical fillers and artificial fragrance. Plant oils and butters penetrate and nourish the skin and hair – petroleum jelly does not. If you’ve ever used vaseline or vaseline based products in the winter you’ve probably noticed how dry and scaly your skin is the moment you wash them off. Try a plant oil or butter and notice the difference. Since all of these plant based lubricants are easily available why not use them?

    The Budget Fashionista


    Although I do agree with your statements regarding cocoa butter and olive oil, both of which I use daily, I think it may be a little bit ignorant and self righteous on your part to state that models and folks who use vaseline are using it out of ignorance. As someone who works in the industry, I can tell you that models are VERY careful about what they put on their skin, in their bodies (for the most part), etc.  Beauty is a model’s business and if anything remotely threaten their “business” they wouldn’t use it. I use vaseline (along with other products) almost everyday for a variety of purposes and I have great skin. The fact is it works. Regardless of who told us to use it- it works. And it’s cheap

    Here’s an article to diffuse the debate…unless you have a medical degree or a link to a study that proves can’t discount this article on web MD written about Eczema.  It advocates Crisco and Petroleum jelly…

    This comment has nothing to do with the use of Vaseline but I’ve found out something that I just wanted to share.
    I use Hydrogen Peroxide once a day to keep my teeth white. I swish it around (DO NOT gargle!-if you do it foams at the back of your throat-yuck!) for about 10-20 seconds. Everyone is always commenting on how white my teeth are. I’ve also discovered that the combination of a good multivitamin (One a Day) and a good hair, skin, and nail vitamin (GNC or One a Day) helps with my overall health and appearance. I have been taking this combo for about 2 months and I am practically glowing. Just thought I’d share and if I think of anything else then I will share again 🙂

    all I can say is, my cosmetic surgeon exclusively recommends Vaseline. Nothing wrong with “petroleum”products on skin. Petroleum comes from the earth! It’s the ONLY ointment I could use painlessly post-cosmetic surgery) want my medical credentials? I have some, but take my MDs instead. I use Vaseline daily.

    I heard that baby oil is a good moisturizer for your body not for your face. I use it everywhere but my face and it stops my dry skin.

    WOW!  I agree with the MD.  My story is…One hot and very dry summer, I developed a terrible case of very dry skin. To say the least, I was taking too many daily showers without applying the proper moisturizer.  My skin became dry, brittle with a constant itch and dark patchy spots.  I went to see a dermatologist and his intern was afraid to examine me, Go Figure… but the doctor examined me and he said… You know that can of grease that you mother kept on the stove for frying and you used this oil to shine your ashy leg.  I nodded in disbelief because it brought back some fond memories of my shiny knobby knees in patent leather shoes.  Well he said, that’s the best thing for you to use for your skin.  Who knew…?  I still use it today! It’s readily available and I never run-out, (Crisco) if you know what I mean.

    I have to say that baby oil applied to the skin right after a shower (I put mine on in the shower) really helps skin stay soft. BUT, if you want great looking skin, use Keri lotion. I’ve had two kids (no stretch marks), sunbathed with the best of them, and I always receive compliments on how great my skin looks. Use the traditional brand not the newer, thinner mixes.

    So,I am using Vaseline for the first time in my life as a facial moisterizer. In my mid thirties, well a few months shy of 35, and for the first time my skin is looking radiant and youthful again. I started using it to counter the extreme drying effects of Retin-a which I take for acne. You probably would think that vaseline should be the last think i should put on my face, but i restrict it under the eyes and my forehead. I disagree with all the naysayers out there, and thinking MD’s having the most accurate word out there is like believing when a drug pusher advises you should use cocaine and avoid the cocoa leaves that it’s made from. MDs are extremely influenced by pharmaceutical companies. And most moisterizers are comprised mainly of water so evaporate quickly and aren’t as effective as vaseline. I read about in a home remedy book, they advice mixing it with water as you apply it which makes sense to me. It thins it out and reduces the gloppiness of it. I’m fair skinned and think it’s a god-send so far. The other oils such as olive oil and other various cooking oils I guess, I think would be good but not as effective as they tend to disintegrate quickly with heat. Good for your body but not so much the face as is it needs more moisture being thinner and such and then all the musculature and expressions,Vaseline is the answer!

    I use this on my body and feet, but not my face. Will the Vaseline cause pores?

    Facts:  the cosmetic industry in USA is NOT government regulated. The industry is suppose to police themselves—kind of like the fox pledging to faithfully guard the hen house.  Why isn’t the idustry regulated? Well,consider its a 15 billion dollar industry that gives loads of money to our politicans to ensure it doesn’t get regulated. This means you can discount any and all claims they make about their products or what is really in them. Now- regarding vaseline (petroleum jelly),it is made from petrolatum—a substance deemed to be one of the most effective moisuturizing elements availabe. But—it is proven to cause cancer and therefore is outlawed in the Eurpoean Union. Do you want to use products that is deemed unsafe by European regulators?  And many other elemnts found in our moisturizers are toxic and are not used in Europe.  Check out on-line British and Canadian drug stores and their moisturizers contain very different ingredients.  SO, I buy from them and couldn’t be happier with the results.

    I find that zealous washing with soap/cleansers will undo the benefits of any moisturizer. A light hand with the cleanser is enough. Vaseline is a great product, and of course one needs to be regular. I have very dry feet, and Vaseline is a godsend : given enough time to be absorbed, all it takes is a thorough rinse with plain water, and a light dusting of talcum to remove any residual greasiness, real or imaginary. For the face & neck – leave the vaseline on for at least an hour, and then very little soap/cleanser is enough. The skin glows. At least, mine does.

    Hmm..i am in love with Vasaline!  I love it in the winter for my feet and legs, put it on and the put my cotton tights on, then go to sleep.  Keep my skin soft for days.  I swear by J&J baby oil after the shower.  It is easy and fast. Plus great for the body breakout like using lotion.  For the winter, i layer on the lotion after the baby oil.

    Okay.. All you Vaseline nay-sayers.. I was speaking on a panel with my girl Pam Edwards, the beauty and fashion editor over at Essence and she stated that Vaseline is a great moisturizer for those with dry to normal skin. She works with celebrities on a daily basis and says that many swear by it.

    I thought that since Vaseline is a PetroChemical product that we weren’t supposed to use this on our face?

    Please be careful about applying anything containing lanolin (a sheep’s wool derivative) and mineral oil (from petroleum) to your skin. Especially if you have sensitive skin.  My son’s eczema is practically non-existant with faithful use of Arbonne products. I tried everything else on the market before discovering these products. His daily routine is no longer a chore, and he is far less self-conscious. I swear by them, and use them for the rest of my family as well as for myself.  They are botanically BASED (not infused) and have less than 2% preservatives. Hypoallergenic, no animal products or by-products, etc.

    Yeah I know Vaseline has been in the family for generations. My momma, her momma, and even her momma’s momma probably used it. . . but that doesn’t mean its good for you. People smoked for years b/f everyone started dying from cancer and we all used to eat Soul Food like crazy, but now we know better. Vaseline and Mineral Oil products like Baby Oil are petroleum based, just like the gas you put in your car. Not a good look for your skin. If you can avoid the vaseline do it, but if not, once you can afford to step it up, make it happen.

    Say what you like about Vaseline being great, but I know for myself what is good. I suffer from severe (and I *mean* severe!) exzema on one of my hands. I was advised to put Vaseline on, which I did, and while it was OK, my exzema was there for much longer. I’ve started using mostrurizers and treatments with NO petroleum, minerals, etc., and the effect is amazing! As for it being a great hair gel, do you realise how much it weighs down your hair? As a girl with curly hair and a whole BLOG devoted to curly hair, I know what I’m talking about. Yes, Vaseline does protect your lips from the elements, but I found that if I didn’t apply every few hours my lips would feel dried out and disgusting. Since switching to Burts Bees lipbalm, I can go a few days with lip balm and my lips don’t chap. As far as I’m concerned, Vaseline is only good for making eyelashes stronger. Maybe I’m not qualified, but in my humble opinion, the person you should listen to is the one with the experience of the comment. I’m sorry I’ve written so much!

    My face used to break-out into periods of dryness.  Now after using petroleum-based products (both moisturizers and cleansers) my face now suffer from excessive dryness and chapping.  What was once infrequent is now daily.  I’m stuck in a situation where I need to let my face get out of this petroleum-based funk.  I personally think vaseline stinks!  Sorry to disagree with all you petroleum-based lovers.

    There is a great article on “petroleum jelly” from wikipedia

    I have used vaseline since I was a child for “rashes”, it is the ONLY thing I’ve found that always works guaranteed.  I too was (am?) afraid of it’s petroleum-based origins, but after reading this article (linked above) I think it’s safe to say that it ain’t so dangerous.  As with all things, “you create your reality with your thoughts”, so if you use it, don’t believe it will give you cancer!  peace.

    as for vaseline being “carcinogenic”, read the following comment below…if you are sufficiently literate to understand what it says, you will see that you shouldn’t worry about it…

    Highly refined (White Petrolatum) grades are used in pharmacy and cosmetics. Less refined grades (Yellow, amber or brown Petrolatum) are used industrially and may contain impurities such as carcinogenic polycyclic aromatics. Therefore, the European Union applies the risk phrase R 45 (May cause cancer) with Note N to petrolatum. Note N reads ‘‘the classification as a carcinogen need not apply if the full refining history is known and it can be shown that the substance from which it is produced is not a carcinogen. This note applies to certain complex oil-derived substances in Annex I’‘.

    Hi, very interesting posts about vaseline.  I am 39, and I used this inexpensive product as a teenager, but I was told when I went to a finishing school to NEVER use vaseline to take off eye makeup.  The reason, it can clog the tear ducts of the eyes – yuck.  I was really shocked, and never used it again.  Perhaps, it is time to rethink my decision.  I don’t know…something to think about.  Thanks again for all the postings, I’ve really enjoyed reading all the helpful hints.

    I was told to look on the back of the bottle at the ingredients to make sure that Mineral Oil isn’t among the first at least six, is that true? Today I went out lotion shopping and I looked at Johnsons Baby Oil Gel and Mineral Oil is the third ingredient, If i rememeber. So i ended up getting Vaseline Intensive Care, Total Moisture.

    Personally, I try to avoid products containing petroleum, mineral oils, parabens, etc. My favorite moisturizers the Burt’s Bees and Dr. Bronner’s Sundog natural lotions. They are a bit more expensive than the budget products, but a little goes a LONG way on my super dry skin.

    Everyone seems to have a grandmother who used vaseline and now has no wrinkles. But how much of that was due to the vaseline and how much was due to the melanin in their skin? I don’t know but I’m betting on the melanin.

    I started using Vaseline after reading these posts- and it has worked wonders! My sensitive skin is no longer breaking out, my face is well moisturized, and soft as a baby’s. Those that don’t know had better recognize- there’s nothing better than Vaseline for moisturizing and softening skin.

    I just visited my dermatologist who is the head of dermatology for my eczema and he said that I can use olive oil and vaseline for intense moisturizing.

    I live in an extremely dry climate. I’ve tried all kinds of lotions, butters and creams.  I have to say that Vaseline is by far my favorite and the most effective of all to me.  I use it around my eyes, forehead, hands and feet.  Ever since I’ve come back to using Vaseline my skin looks supple. Everyone thinks I am younger then what I really am. I absolutely love Vaseline!  If it works for you then use it.  If it doesn’t work for you then stay away!  I maybe “ignorant” but I sure do look good!

    I’m 56 years old and am starting to get lines and creases in my face. I’ve tried expensive facial products of all kinds but finally decided to give vasoline (I use it at night on my feet and legs). Since I have been using vasoline as a facial moisturizer, under my make-up, I have gotten so many compliments on my complexion. I’ve been asked what type of foundation I use, etc. but no one knows that it’s the vasoline that’s done the trick.

    Year’s ago, I suffered a very serious burn on my arm when I improperly lit a gas oven.  I was literally blown across the floor. 

    The burn on my fore arm was a good 8” long and 5” wide.  I went to see a doctor who recommended I apply ice, but that’s it.  After the blister broke and all the protective fluid drained away, I applied vaseline every single day until it healed.  I did not have ANY scar tissue whatsoever!

    My teenage daughter is training to be a firefighter/emt. Everytime she has to wear the heavy gear around her face she has a very bad breakout within a few days. I was wondering if putting a thin line of Vaseline around the area would provide a barrior between her skin and the gear. I don’t know if it clogs the pores. Any advise would be appreciated. (She usually has beautiful skin with few problems).

    Thank You.

    I used to sell a pretty well known and expensive skin care line to dermatologists and select pharmacies. The dermatologists would often recomend vaseline as the moisturizer of choice and it would drive the cosmeticians nuts. And, I can’t say it made us all that happy either.

    But the truth remains that medical professionals who dedicate their professional lives to the care and maintenance of skin, recomending a cheap solution that they make no money off of have to have a pretty good bearing in truth.

    Fire Mom, as good as it is (and it is!), Vaseline is also flammable, and burns longer than most other oils. I couldn

    Thanks for the sound advice, I plan on following your tips, the more economical route, to tame my dry skin.  Thank you soooooo much because I am quite frugal but I am so fed up with my dry skin I was considering spending the $$$$$ to fix it.  I think most of time we believe that just because we spend more money we are “guaranteed” that our problem will be solved; when all the long we probably already had something in our homes that could have done the trick.  Thanks again.

    Rhonda in Maryland

    i tell you my skin is very beautiful, my skin have been very smooth, it is also good for sensitive skin. i have experienced no pimple since i started using vaseline. so i recommend it.

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