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Addressing persistent patches of dry skin can be quite a challenge, but with the right skincare routine, it’s possible to improve the look and feel of troublesome areas like rough, dry knees and elbows. Discover CeraVe skincare tips and advice for achieving smoother, softer-feeling skin.


If you're someone who regularly has dry skin, you’ll be no stranger to cracked skin and rough patches—especially around your knees and elbows. You may even moisturise these areas daily with little to no improvement. So, what causes those persistent and frustrating dry areas, and what can you do to improve their appearance?

In this guide, we’ll break down some of the likely causes of dry knees and elbows and explain why body moisturiser alone may not always be enough to address this skin concern. Read on to discover the skincare practices, product recommendations, and skincare tips that can help you improve the appearance of cracked, chafed, or very dry elbows and knees.

Facts About Dry Skin on Knees and Elbows

  • Fact #1: Knees and elbows are some of the most common parts of the body where people experience excessively dry skin and rough texture.

  • Fact #2: Rough, dry patches on the skin can be the result of both internal and external factors, such as genetics, age, a dry climate or cold weather, or even improper skincare.

  • Fact #3:  When the outer layer of skin thickens excessively, it’s sometimes referred to as hyperkeratosis. This condition can occur anywhere on the body (including the knees and elbows) and can be the result of rubbing or the use of harsh soaps.

  • Fact #4: Dry, rough knees and elbows can usually be managed at home with a gentle but effective skincare routine for dry skin that includes regular use of moisturisers (creams, lotions, and ointments).

Understanding the Skin on Elbows and Knees

If you look at your elbows and knees, you’ll probably notice the skin is visibly different compared to the rest of your body. For starters, the skin generally looks and feels thicker, with more visible lines and folds. And there’s a good reason for this:

The skin here is designed to be capable of constant twisting and stretching as your limbs flex and move. Knees and elbows are also major contact points against clothing, causing rubbing and friction. The skin has to be able to withstand all this movement.

Why Do I Have Rough Skin on My Knees and Elbows?

Dry, rough patches on your elbows and knees are one of those skin conditions that can have numerous causes. Some are within your control. Here are a few:

  • Low Humidity: Dry air makes it harder to retain the skin's natural oils and keep skin hydrated, which could contribute to dry, flaky skin, or itching sensations.

  • Cold Temperatures: The cold temperatures and dry, windy conditions associated with harsh winter weather also means low humidity, and thus make a dry skin type worse.

  • Age: As you age, your skin becomes thinner, and its ability to hold on to moisture naturally diminishes. The result: drier skin all over the body.

  • Genetics: Some people are genetically predisposed to dry skin e.g. to have thicker skin, or having fewer sebaceous glands.

  • Pre-existing skin condition: Some skin conditions, such as mild eczema-prone skin or keratosis pilaris (a.k.a. chicken skin) make dry, rough skin more likely.

  • Skincare Practices: Using harsh, drying skincare products (such as those containing alcohol or fragrance) or overly hot water can strip moisture and natural oils from your skin. So can use of inappropriate products for your skin type, over-cleansing or over-exfoliating.

  • Dead Skin Cell Build up: When dead skin cells build up on the skin’s surface, it can give skin a rough, uneven texture and a dry, flaky appearance.

  • Skin Moisture Barrier Disruption: Water passively evaporates continually through the skin and into the air in a simple physiological phenomenon known as trans-epidermal water loss, or TEWL. If the skin’s natural moisture barrier isn’t functioning properly, TEWL may occur at a much higher rate than usual.

Seven Tips for Rough Patches on the Knees and Elbows

One of the best ways to help soften rough, dry skin on your elbows and knees is with a well-rounded skincare regimen that takes account of the cause of your concern. The right routine can help prevent dry patches while at the same time softening existing rough spots.

1. Choose a body moisturiser with humectants

Moisturising is an essential step in any body care routine—especially if you have dry skin. Applying moisturisers daily improves skin hydration and helps minimise water loss. Some moisturisers also help smooth and soften skin and help maintain the skin’s protective moisture barrier.

Humectants help attract moisture to your skin’s surface. CeraVe recommends looking for body moisturisers that contain proven humectant ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, panthenol, and glycerin. A body moisturiser to consider adding to your dry skin routine is CeraVe Moisturising Cream. Formulated with ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid, this moisturising cream is designed to help restore the look and feel of smooth, supple, and healthy-looking skin.

2. Reapply moisturiser as needed

If you want to get the most out of your moisturiser, it’s important to apply it regularly, as part of both a morning and evening skincare routine.
For dry elbow skin and rough, dry knees, it may be helpful to reapply body moisturiser several times a day (especially during cold, dry winter weather). CeraVe Daily Moisturising Lotion is a fragrance-free, non-greasy body lotion that can be applied as needed. Developed with dermatologists, this moisturiser formula is gentle on your skin, provides 24-hour hydration, and helps restore your skin’s protective moisture barrier.

3. Wear protective clothing during the winter months

Exposure to dry, cold, or windy weather conditions can make your knees and elbows more vulnerable to dryness and potentially worsen rough patches. Shield them from the elements by wearing protective clothing when heading outdoors. If your skin feels itchy, irritated, or uncomfortable, check the fabrics you’re wearing to ensure they’re soft, breathable, and aren’t irritating your skin.

5. Reassess your bathing habits

Long, hot showers or baths and using harsh soaps or detergents can also contribute to excess dryness. If you have dry skin, the Australasian College of Dermatologists (ACD) recommends bathing with warm (not hot) water, limiting showers to 10 minutes or less, and using a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser. They also recommend applying body moisturiser to slightly damp skin as soon as you get out out of the shower, to help effectively seal in moisture.

6. Treat dry knees and elbows with care

Try to avoid harsh scrubbing, rubbing, or pulling, and apply skincare products gently as per the instructions on the label (or as directed by your dermatologist). Although it can be tempting to over-exfoliate dry patches with a body scrub, this may irritate your skin and disrupt the skin moisture barrier, making matters worse. Instead, CeraVe recommends sticking to a gentle moisturising routine that includes beneficial ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, as described above.

7. Try a gentle exfoliating moisturiser to remove dead skin cells 

Using an exfoliant containing lactic acid or salicylic acid is one way to help reduce rough, thickened patches of skin on the body. An exfoliating moisturiser worth considering is CeraVe SA Smoothing Cream, formulated with salicylic acid, lactic acid, and ceramides. This moisturising cream gently removes dead skin cells to help improve skin texture and soften very dry, rough skin. 

Important Note: Dry skin that’s persistent, painful, or interferes with your daily life can sometimes be associated with an underlying condition. In such circumstances, CeraVe always recommends you consult a healthcare professional.


  1. Dry Skin (Xerosis), Australasian College of Dermatologists, available at www.dermcoll.edu.au/atoz/xerosis. Accessed January 2024.

  2. Dry Skin (Xeroderma), DermNet NZ, available at dermnetnz.org/topics/dry-skin. Accessed January 2024.

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