During the winter our largest organ, the skin, can suffer from excessive dryness. The air outside is cold, and cold air holds less moisture than warm air. Inside, the heat’s cranked up causing moisture in the air to evaporate.
To deal with these conditions and prevent your skin from getting itchy, rough, cracked (or any other symptom of dry skin), you should get in a regular routine of moisturizing your skin and limiting activities or habits that can dry it out.
How to Prevent Dry Skin
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, here are things you can do to take better care of your skin to prevent it from drying out:
1. Change how you bathe, shave, and get clean. It seems strange but water can dry your skin out, especially if it’s hot water. Hot water strips the skin of its natural oils that keep it moist.
2. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
- Keep your bath or shower short. Limit your time to five-10 minutes and keep the water temperature warm, not hot.
- Use gentle, non-scented soaps and cleansers. Deodorant soaps and products with alcohol can be especially drying. Hypoallergenic products might be worth looking into.
- Shave after you've been in the bath or shower for a few minutes. This allows your hairs to get softer; making it less likely you’ll irritate your skin.
Your entire body can benefit from being moisturized with quality products during the winter (and year-round) – especially your face, hands, and feet.
- Moisturize right after you get out of the bath or shower. This will help seal in moisture on your damp skin. Always pat your skin dry with a towel instead of rubbing it dry.
- Remember to moisturize each time you wash your hands or face. Carry moisturizer with you and apply it after you use soap or alcohol based sanitizers.
- Use creams or ointments instead of lotions. They’re more effective because they’re heavier and contain soothing oils. The following is not a complete list, but you can check labels for these quality ingredients:
- Olive oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum (petroleum jelly) are good oils
- Glycerine is a humectant (it attracts and holds moisture)
- Soothing agents include lactic acid, urea, hyaluronic acid, and dimethicone
- Anti-oxidants (vitamins A, C, E, and CoQ10) can also help with skin moisture
- Don’t forget about your lips. Dry, cracked lips can be painful. Find a good lip balm that’s comfortable to wear.
3. Avoid dry air and irritants. There are things everyone should try to do to protect their skin from the drying effects of the air around it.
- Wear protective clothing to keep cold, dry air away from your skin. Always wear gloves, and consider wearing a face mask when you’re outside for an extended period of time to protect your skin.
- Keep socks and gloves dry. Your hands and feet are usually the first things to get damp or wet. This can irritate the skin and cause it to dry out.
- Avoid sitting close to fireplaces or sources of heat. Although it may feel nice, the warm air sucks moisture from your skin.
- Watch what you wear. Wool and rough fabrics can irritate your skin along with chemicals in laundry detergents and other cleansers. Try hypoallergenic laundry detergents if your skin is sensitive.
- Use a room humidifier or add one to your furnace. These help to add moisture in the air.
When to See the Dermatologist
If you try these tips and your skin doesn’t get better after a couple of weeks, it might be time to talk to your dermatologist. They can take a look at your skin and talk to you to better understand what’s happening. In some cases, a prescription cream or ointment may be needed to relieve the dry skin.
The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.