Valerie Monroe
Photo: Jonathan Skow
Q: What's the best way to treat my Sahara-dry legs?

A: Though your parched legs could be the result of any number of things, including too many hot showers, harsh soaps, atopic dermatitis, or, rarely, kidney disease or a thyroid condition, the most common cause is a combination of chronological and sun-induced aging, says Joshua Wieder, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. As we get older, our oil glands don't function as well as they used to, and coupled with sun damage, skin becomes dehydrated (which can be exacerbated by winter weather). Avoid overcleansing, and apply a rich moisturizer after you shower while your skin is damp. The over-the-counter lotion AmLactin XL, with 12 percent lactic acid, is very effective, says Wieder. If you've tried all the above and your legs are still reptilian, see a dermatologist.

Bottom line: You know the drill. No long, hot showers or harsh soaps. And try a body lotion with alpha hydroxy acids to peel off dry skin and allow moisturizers to penetrate more deeply.