Having a thick skin is usually a good thing—unless it's on your elbows and knees. Between the minimal oil glands and the constant friction caused by bending and leaning, these often scaly spots can become—and stay—soft only with some TLC from you. Here, three tactics.

By Jenny Jin
Updated June 18, 2015
Dry, cracked powder with moisturizer on top
Credit: Aaron Dyer

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Dry, cracked powder with moisturizer on top
Credit: Aaron Dyer

1 Add a buffer.

Dry skin is hereditary, but certain activities exacerbate it. “When planking or kneeling in yoga, for example, the skin on your elbows and knees thickens to protect itself, just like the calluses do on your feet,” says Robyn Gmyrek, a dermatologist in New York City. Create a shield by opting for workout gear that covers these trouble spots. Other helpful hints: Go easy on the moisture-sapping A/C, or use a humidifier. And take lukewarm, not hot, showers. In the heat, wear full-coverage layers of thin fabrics (as opposed to bare skin) to seal in moisture.

2 Exfoliate more.

Sloughing off dead cells helps ingredients penetrate. Buff gently with a glycolic cleanser or a scrub two to three times a week. “If you feel pain or stinging, you're removing healthy tissue. Apply less pressure, or scale back to once a week,” says Gmyrek. Try Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash ($32, skincarerx.com) or S.W. Basics Body Scrub ($22, swbasics.com).

3 Moisturize better.

“At least twice a day, and definitely as soon as you get out of the shower, apply a thick cream or ointment to the areas,” says Gmyrek. Look for urea or lactic acid on the ingredient list. Both help break down dead skin cells, which allows for better absorption of your products. Try Avène Akérat Smoothing Exfoliating Cream ($31, dermstore.com).