Dry skin during winter is a common and mostly harmless condition, but its effects can be irritating and uncomfortable. Between the flakes, rashes, itchiness, tightness and raw, scaly patches, all skin types are vulnerable and need extra protection this time of year. The main cause of dry skin during winter is exposure to cold weather and low humidity, but there are other culprits too, the Mayo Clinic warns.
Hot showers, central heating systems and harsh products that reduce your natural oils can further exacerbate this issue. As these colder months begin, here are some practices and products to combat—or more ideally, avoid—dry skin during winter.
Regulate Water Temperature
While it sounds like the perfect antidote to a chilly afternoon, the more long, hot showers you take, the more this heat strips moisture from your skin. This can lead to inflammation and damage to the surface of your skin, notes Dr. Harry Dao, a dermatologist at the Baylor College of Medicine. To prevent this, Dr. Dao recommends bathing yourself in lukewarm water, then rubbing a mild, nontoxic emollient cream on yourself afterward to absorb the water’s moisture into your pores.
Get an Indoor Air Humidifier
If you move continuously between frigid windchill outside and artificial heat inside, those temperature extremes cause skin dehydration. Harsh weather cannot hold water vapor in the air, which results in low humidity and depletes moisture from your skin. While there’s nothing you can do about the outdoors, you can regulate your home environment. The safest indoor humidity level is 45 percent, confirms Apartment Therapy, so investing in a humidifier will help maintain this.
Moisturize Your Entire Body
Not only does skin need external moisture, but it also requires regular topical moisturizer as well. Start with a facial cream for the neck and face, then use a body cream for the hands, feet, knees, elbows and other areas. For the face, choose ingredients that hydrate the pores like cocoa and shea butter, hydrochloric acid or glycerin. For the body, look for ingredients that seal moisture such as petrolatum, cetyl alcohol or lanolin, adds Dr. Melissa Doft, a skincare clinician at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Ditch Rough, Abrasive Scrubs
Exfoliation might feel refreshing in the summer, but it’s not helpful to treat dry skin during winter. Masks, peels, scrubs and other exfoliants with abrasive salts, acids and sugars can further irritate skin that’s already raw or inflamed. Skin generates new cells all the time, which provides natural exfoliation, so when you over-exfoliate, it affects the skin’s moisture barrier and decreases oil production, Healthline points out. Even certain loofahs, brushes, sponges or towels can be too rough.
Avoid Dry Skin This Winter
Dry skin during winter is an issue that no one wants to deal with, so this year, be proactive with your skincare regimen and avoid its discomfort altogether.