woman with dry skin with hypothyroidism

How to fight the dry skin that comes with hypothyroidism

Sorry, my fellow ladies, but 1 in 8 of us will develop thyroid problems at some point in life, according to U.S. Health and Human Services. Yes, that means we’re more susceptible to both hyper- and hypothyroidism than men. Great. And while most of living with this chronic illness is about self-care and managing your metabolism and energy levels, there are smaller battles, too. I’m thinking of the hair loss, the eyebrow thinning, and, yes, that pesky dry skin with hypothyroidism. It can be an even bigger thorn in your side since, as women, we’re expected more than men to have perfectly coiffed hair and sleek, supple skin.

You hopefully have your doctor fighting side-by-side with you on the bigger battles. And you have a go-to self-care regimen at home that helps you live as close to normal as possible. But where do you start with these smaller battles once you have the energy to tackle them? No one’s marking lotion specifically for women with hypothyroidism, after all.

Here are some methods I use to battle my hypothyroidism-induced dry skin. It’s still a process, my skin is still somewhat dry. But it’s a far cry from where I started. I’m happy to say it’s now at a place where it’s hardly ever painful and itchy like it was before and I’m transitioning into maintenance mode. These things were integral to getting my dry skin under control after my hypothyroidism diagnosis. (Think you have the condition, but a doctor hasn’t confirmed? Here’s what you might face while you work with doctors toward a hypothyroidism diagnosis.)

Ways to soothe dry skin with hypothyroidism

I’ve listed the biggest things that helped get my dry skin under control as well as how I’m using them. Since I’m transitioning away from controlling it into maintenance, I’ve also described the change and different frequencies of each. I want you to have the formula I use to tackle the skin issues I’ve had from hypothyroidism. Everyone’s skin is different, so the amount and frequency of each might differ for you, but each can be tailored to your unique skin.

eat healthy fats for dry skin with hypothyroidism
Packing two healthy fats into one delicious avocado toast. Photo: iStock

Eat more healthy fats

You’ve read a million reasons why you should be doing this, likely even before you were diagnosed. Healthy fats influence your body in so many ways, from regulating hormones to keeping your skin soft. But it’s the later benefit that we’re concerned about here.

I have a weight loss and fitness coach who had me on a lower fat, higher protein diet. For many people trying to lose weight and keep it off, that makes sense. But women need more fat than men to keep their hormones regulated, and we assessed everything after I was diagnosed. Along with the swaths of itchy dry skin came intense cravings for avocado and salmon. I told him I wanted to listen more to my body, so we worked these foods into the plan.

A quick side note that figuring out how much water you should drink in a day is also an important factor. Letting yourself get dehydrated will only make the dry skin worse and harder to get rid of.

How to work them into your regimen

This one’s easy, which is why we’re starting here. You should be eating healthy fats everyday, plain and simple. That’s probably not a problem since guacamole is so delicious. This is also the one factor I’m not changing. I upped my healthy fat intake to help deal with my dry skin from the inside out, and I don’t plan on bringing them down again any time soon.

Caloric needs vary depending on your height, weight, and activity level. That’s why I’m not going to go into how many calories I eat a day. My numbers simply aren’t helpful for you since we’re two different people. But I take in anywhere from 40 to 50 grams of fat a day, and aside from my one indulgence meal on Saturdays, these fats are from healthy sources. I rely on almond butter, salmon, eggs, and avocado to hit these numbers. (Sounds pretty delicious, right?)

Many women experience hormonal issues when they drop much below 40 grams of fat a day. For most people that would be dropping below 20% of your daily calories coming from fat. You don’t need to go keto to feed your skin from the inside out, but extreme low-fat dieting is not for you if you have hypothyroidism.

elbows knees dry skin with hypothyroidism

Lucaxx Freire

Exfoliate with a body scrub that uses oil

I know, I know, you’re worried they’ll make you break out. My skin is particular, too. That’s why I only use these scrubs on my body and avoid my face. But for my dry elbows, knees, and back, these scrubs have been a game changer. Try to use a scrub with natural ingredients, and get them organic if you can. We can absorb chemicals through our skin easily, so it’s best to keep things natural.

I have two favorite scrubs: one for dealing with dry skin that has gotten out of control, and the other for maintaining skin once it’s hydrated. I’ll give you brands, prices, and links below. You can also make some of these scrubs yourself. I find it easier to buy for now since my energy levels took such a hit. Maybe when they rebound I’ll make my own scrubs for dealing with dry skin with hypothyroidism. If I do, I’ll share the recipes with you.

How to work them into your regimen

Hypothyroidism had destroyed my skin before I realized what was going on. To get the excess dry skin under control, I turned to Frank Body scrubs. They come in adorable pouches and use only natural, organic ingredients like coffee grounds. They have seven different body scrubs that use the same coffee ground base for exfoliation and oil for hydration. My favorites are the Peppermint Coffee Scrub ($18.95) and the Coconut Coffee Scrub ($18.95), although they’ve added new items since my last order that I haven’t tried yet.

Each packet will get you through about 3 or 4 full-body exfoliation sessions, more if you’re only using them on your problem parts. Just make sure you’re not scrubbing too hard. A gentle, circular motion is enough to take off all of that troublesome dry skin.

When my skin was at its driest, I used these scrubs once or twice a week, depending on my schedule. (It does take some time to rinse it off of you and your tub when you’re done.) They left my skin shiny, smooth, and supple from the olive or coconut oil. I rarely had to use moisturizer between sessions if I exfoliated twice a week.

Now I’ll use this body scrub once every two or three weeks. In between sessions of scrubbing off the dry skin, I’ll supplement with Josie Maran Sugar Scrub ($38), which I pick up at Sephora. It earned Sephora’s Clean seal, which means it doesn’t have questionable chemicals people are starting to question that are common in the beauty industry. (Included on that long list are several endocrine disruptors.)

The price point looks high, but Josie Maran products are worth it if you can afford the cost. They’re packed with soothing argan oil, which has never caused breakouts for me, even on my face. This gorgeous jar has also lasted me a month (and is still going), even though I use it once a week. Since sugar crystals are smaller than coffee grounds, I scrub a little harder with this one than the Frank Body products without going crazy.

woman out of shower

Tanja Heffner

Invest in a good lotion, and have travel size with you

No surprise here after my second point, but I want you to pick one up with oil in it. I’m a Josie Maran fan when it comes to lotion, too. I know her products don’t have endocrine disruptors or obesogens (chemicals that research suggests may “turn on” your fat-storing genes). I also know they’re packed with hydrating oils that will keep my skin smooth and itch-free. She uses argan oil, but you can find other brands that use jojoba, coconut, or olive oil if you prefer them.

Just make sure you read the ingredients before you buy. If you can only watch for one thing, make it this: don’t buy something with water as the first ingredient. You want something that’s actually going to soak in and hydrate. Water will momentarily make your skin feel supple, then evaporate away and leave you itching again in no time.

How to work them into your regimen

I have a large tub (you could even call it a vat) of Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil Body Butter ($35) in my bathroom. Like her sugar scrub mentioned above, I pick this up at Sephora. I like to make sure my pores are open from the steam of the shower, then apply immediately when I get out. A little goes a long way, and my 8-ounce container has lasted a surprisingly long amount of time. Although it’s no longer sold, I also have a tiny container of ginger-scented argan oil lotion from her that I keep at my desk at work. My hands and elbows have the most stubborn dry skin, so I’ll reapply whenever the skin on either feels tight and headed toward itchiness.

But there’s no need to buy separate containers. For traveling, and for my bag, I buy empty travel containers and just move some from my larger lotion container over. Don’t spend time looking for three quality products, when travel containers let you use one great one wherever you go. Target has a whole line of these containers, in colors and clear, that are also TSA compliant.

woman with hair in updo

Dan Gold

Wash your hair less often

I’m crossing over a bit here, since hair loss is also an issue with hypothyroidism, but stick with me for a second. One of the most noticeable areas that changed when I started developing dry skin with hypothyroidism was my hairline. And we all know it’s serious business to get dry skin there. You can’t itch or you’ll get flakes. Well, maybe you’ll get flakes anyway. Plus, you can’t exactly apply lotion to your hairline unless you want greasy-looking roots. I’ve found the key to managing this one is cutting down how frequently you wash your hair.

How to work it into your regimen

When you wash your hair, especially with shampoo, you’re stripping out the natural oils. That means you’re doing the same thing to the areas of skin getting a scrub, too. Your body doesn’t need extra moisture in these places, it just needs you let the natural oils take hold a little more.

You have two options with this one: One, jump right to washing your hair twice a week and deal with the extra oil for a couple weeks; two, work your way down to twice a week slowly and deal with dry skin for longer. Your choice will probably mostly be shaped by your work situation. I had to work my way down gradually to avoid an overload of shiny hair.

Washing twice a week seems ideal for me, though you might be able to get away with every other day. But even though I’m scrubbing my hair less frequently, I can’t overdo it with dry shampoo, either. I’ve made this mistake before and it leads to equally dry, flaky skin, and discomfort.

Imani Clovis


how to soothe dry skin with hypothyroidism

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