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How to care for dry elbows

Everything you need to know about what causes dry & itchy elbows and how to prevent them.

How to care for dry elbows

The elbows are normally one of the driest areas of the body and can become itchy and irritating as a result. Some people even notice black or white discolouration, while ashy elbows are not uncommon. 

Find out why elbows are prone to dryness, symptoms of dry elbows and how to adapt your skincare routine to treat dry, itchy elbows.

Why do I have dry elbows?

Elbows are more prone to dryness than other parts of the body. But why is this? One of the main reasons for this is that, as the elbows are more exposed to friction, the skin of the elbows is thicker than the skin on the rest of the body to protect it.


The elbows are in contact with different surfaces a lot more than other areas – whether you're leaning on a desk, holding your head in your hands or reading a book. They also have fewer sebaceous glands, the oil-secreting parts of the skin, so they are less lubricated. 

So what are the symptoms of dry skin on elbows?

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Dry elbows symptoms

If your elbows are dry, you may notice the following: 

- Black or white patches
- Ashy appearance
- Itching 
- Swelling 
- Scaly areas

What is the cause of dry elbows?

The elbows are exposed to a great deal and there are a few reasons they can become excessively dry or itchy. Here are some common causes of dry elbows:
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1) Friction
Those of us who spend a lot of time behind a desk complain about dry elbows. While working at a computer, your elbows are in constant contact with the desktop or chair armrests, and the friction causes drying and thickening of the epidermis.

2) Irritating clothing
Certain materials, including synthetics like polyester, can irritate the elbow skin as they rub against it. Sweat can contribute to this by clinging to clothing, causing friction between your skin and your clothing. This can strip the skin of its natural oils and leave it dry and dehydrated, particularly in areas, like the elbows, that are prone to dryness.

3) Movement 
Your elbows are a joint and as a result, the skin on them bends and stretches constantly throughout the day as you move, which puts further strain on the elbow skin which can cause dry elbows. The stresses on the skin over the elbow joint can even become cracked if it is not looked after.

4) The weather
Dry elbows appear most often in colder weather as cold air can cause the skin to dry out. But the sun can also dry out the skin on your elbows, which are particularly susceptible to damage from UV light. Make sure to apply a good sunscreen all over your body - including your elbows - before going out into the sun. 
Explore our range of highly-effective NIVEA sun lotions, to protect your skin from sun damage and prevent dry skin on elbows.

5) Diet
Insufficient fluid intake can lead to dry elbows, while consuming a small amount of unsaturated fats will help build up the skin's hydrolipid barrier - that’s your skin’s protective layer that will help prevent your elbows becoming dry.


6) Heating 
During the winter months, heating can often draw the moisture out of the air which can leave skin dehydrated - another reason you may notice you have dry elbows more in the winter months than you do during spring and summer. Hot showers can also strip the skin of its natural oils which can lead to itchy and dry elbows.

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7) Air conditioning 
In the same way that heating can dry out the skin, air conditioning can have the same effect by upsetting the skin's natural moisture balance. This can often cause itchy elbows that feel dry to the touch.

8) Hormonal changes
Hormonal changes such as menopause dehydrate the skin and can cause dry elbows. 

9) Insufficient skincare 
Your skin needs moisture and with all the work your elbows do, they need a bit of a hydrating helping hand. This is all the more important when it comes to dry elbows. Keeping the skin hydrated on a regular basis using a rich moisturiser is essential for avoiding dry elbows on skin on elbows.

10) Chlorine 
If you’re a regular swimmer, or you’ve been enjoying a daily swim on holiday, there's a high chance that the chlorine is drying out your elbows. Rehydrate your skin after a swim with a moisturiser or sunscreen (a must if you’re poolside).  

I’ve got discoloured or ashy elbows - should I be worried?

Dark or white patches on the elbow are completely normal.  Discoloured or ashy elbows are simply caused by a buildup of dead skin cells which can make the area look patchy or even scaly. Make sure to exfoliate regularly to remove these dead skin cells for bright and smooth elbow skin.

Remember that regularity is essential with dry elbows!
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Homemade remedy for dark or discoloured elbows

If you have dark skin on your elbows, you can also try one of the home remedies - lemon! Place half of the lemon on the elbow and massage for a moment. Lemon juice has lightening properties which can slightly change the earthy tone of the skin. Importantly, do not use this method when your skin is irritated or cracked! After using this treatment, use a moisturising or oiling cream as the lemon dries out the epidermis, the out layer of the skin.

How to tackle dry skin on elbows

Dry elbows may be common, but there are steps you can take at home to keep your skin smooth and supple.
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1) Use lukewarm water when you wash, or shower to prevent getting dry elbows.

2) Exfoliate your skin to get rid of the dry, flaky skin with a gentle body scrub. It is important that the scrub is gentle on your skin as your dry skin will be more sensitive and can result in itchy elbows.

3) Moisturise your skin after you shower to lock in moisture and keep your skin hydrated and nourished to prevent dry elbows. Moisturising is also soothing to your skin and can provide much needed comfort from itchy elbows. Explore our range of NIVEA body lotions for long-lasting nourishment, perfect for treating and caring for dry elbows.

4) Wash with gentle, nourishing shower gels as some ingredients can cause dry skin and dry elbows. Creams and gels with shea or cocoa butter are great for keeping your skin nourished. 

5) Wear clothing made from softer and more breathable materials such as cotton will be gentler on your skin.

6) Change your fabric softener if your skin is reacting or becoming sensitive to it - in order to prevent itchy elbows.
7) When going out and about in the sun, make sure to apply sunscreen to your body to protect against UV light, as well as the heat drying out your skin. If you're swimming, make sure it is water resistant and after swimming, wash off the chlorine or sea water and promptly moisturise to restore your skin’s hydration levels. If you leave salty seawater on your body you may find you have itchy elbows as the salt can be rough on your skin so this is a useful habit to get into.
8) If your dry elbows persist or worsen, see your GP as they will be able to prescribe medical treatments that will help soothe your dry and itchy elbows.

5 reasons to exfoliate your dry elbows

Here’s how to exfoliate your elbows like a pro

Dead skin cells are a big cause of dry elbow skin. Exfoliating on a regular basis will get rid of the build up of dead skin cells revealing bright, healthy-looking skin underneath.

5 reasons to exfoliate your dry elbows


  1. Skin will look brighter in appearance
  2. Dead skin cells will be removed to reveal fresh, healthy-looking skin
  3. The massage will give the skin’s circulation a boost
  4. Hard patches of skin will feel smoother
  5. Your skin tone will look more even and discoloured elbows will eventually be eliminated


The best body lotions for dry elbows


If you want to avoid using many different creams on different parts of the body on a daily basis, seek out a moisture-rich body lotion. If you have very dry elbows and you feel you need more intense moisturisation, try a body lotion enriched with natural oils to comfort dehydrated elbows.

When you have dry elbows it's important to be patient with your treatments
as only doing something once will not fix the problem. 


  • Take a good body scrub and gently massage it all over your skin, focusing on areas with particularly dry skin like the elbows and knees. Then wash it off and enjoy rejuvenated-looking skin

  • A body brush can be another key tool for keeping the elbow area exfoliated

  • Although exfoliating your elbows is very important if you have dry elbows, it's important not to do it too often as this can become too harsh for the skin and you may start removing healthy skin cells leaving you with dry elbows that can be sore.

  • Experts recommend using a body scrub no more than twice a week if you want to reap the benefits without causing further damage.