Winter weather and dry air indoors can leave skin feeling itchy, red, irritated and dry. But there are ways to tackle the cold weather and make sure that your skin doesn't suffer.
What Causes Dry Skin In The Winter?
Dry skin in the winter is a common problem that can affect anyone at any age. Dry skin happens when skin loses too much moisture. This can result from:
- Getting older, as skin thins with age
- Jobs that need frequent hand-washing
- Bathing often
- Skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis
- Cold air
- Hot water
Is A Humidifier Good For Your Skin?
Turning your heater heats your home, but it also dries the air out. Cold air and low humidity can lead to dry, itchy skin that may flake or crack. Adding moisture back in the air will help rehydrate your body. Humidifiers can help winter skin problems and other winter health irritations such as:
- Dry skin
- Cracked lips
- Irritated eyes
- Dryness in the throat or airways
- Frequent coughs
- Bloody noses
- Sinus headaches
"The temperature from indoors to outside can be a 100-degree difference," said May J. Chow, MD, a dermatologist with Specialty Physicians of Illinois at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields. "For example, it may be 70 degrees in your home and when you step outside, the wind chill can be below 30 degrees. You should have a good humidifier in your home to help with dry air."
Stay hydrated from the inside out as well. Drink plenty of water and other fluids. Your skin can become too dry if you don’t drink enough fluids or spend too much time in dry conditions.
Will Baths In The Winter Cause Dry Skin?
Take warm, not hot, baths or showers, and limit the amount of time spent. Hot baths break down important barriers in the skin that keep it hydrated. Use a mild soap or non-soap cleanser.
Afterward, blot dry gently and slather on a moisturizing cream or ointment.
How Should I Moisturize My Skin In The Winter?
"You should moisturize as often as possible, especially in areas that are more prone to becoming dry," Dr. Chow said. "The best time to moisturize is immediately after you get out of the shower or bath, while your body still has moisture in it. This will allow you to lock in that moisture that is already there. You do not need to rub in the moisturizer, you can pat it on your skin."
What Is The Best Kind Of Moisturizer For Dry Winter Skin?
When choosing a moisturizer for dry winter skin, Dr. Chow recommends going with a reputable brand name that has the following:
- Humectants: they pull water from different layers of the skin to increase the level of moisture in the skin and hydrate it, causing the skin to look less flaky.
- Alpha-hydroxy acids
- Occlusive agents: provide a protection layer to prevent water from evaporating
"All these basic agents should be included in the moisturizer that you choose because they all work together to keep your skin healthy, especially in the winter," Dr. Chow said.
Some moisturizers are better for just the face and some just for the skin, so when in doubt, contact a dermatologist.
Is Dry Skin Really Eczema?
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is extreme red and irritated skin.
"The cold winter weather can cause flare-ups because of the dry air, hot baths or showers or contact with certain materials like wool," Dr. Chow said.
Some symptoms of eczema are:
- Severe itching, especially at night
- Dry, scaly patches that are red to brownish-gray on the skin
- Small, raised bumps that could leak fluid and scab over if scratched
- Thick, cracked, dry, and scaly skin
- Raw and sensitive skin
Normal lotion, ointment and over the counter products will not help eczema symptoms. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, treatment cannot cure eczema, but it can control eczema. Eczema treatment is important because it can:
- Prevent eczema symptoms from getting worse
- Calm the skin, relieving pain and itch
- Reduce emotional stress
- Prevent infections
- Stop the skin from thickening - thickened skin often itches all the time -even when the eczema is not flaring
Do I Need Sunscreen In The Winter?
Even on cloudy winter days, you should wear sunscreen. The sun's harmful UV rays can penetrate clouds, and snow can reflect the sun's rays.
"An SPF formulated for the face is so important," said Tess Clingerman, an aesthetician at the Franciscan Physician Network Medical Spa in Indianapolis. "Going into the colder months should be no different when it comes to our sun protection."
By Ariel Anderson
Social Media Specialist