Ditch the Itch of Dry Winter Skin

Health Center dermatology offers tips on preventing dry winter skin.

For many people, the cold clear days of winter bring more than just a rosy glow to the cheeks. They also bring uncomfortable dryness to the skin of the face, hands, and feet.

The dry air of winter pulls moisture from the skin, which then tends to peel, crack, and shed excessively. This increased loss of skin cells results in increased oil and water loss. This leads to more dry skin. Also, the forced hot air of indoor heating systems contributes substantially.

For people who have an existing skin condition, such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, or dandruff, winter weather can make a bad problem worse.

Prevent Dry Skin

Dealing with dry skin is all about trapping moisture in your skin. Here are a few tips for putting the moisture back into your home, and your body:

  • Use a humidifier. Running a humidifier in your home will add moisture to dry, heated air. The moist air will help keep your skin, mouth, and nose lubricated, and helps prevent those nasty static shocks.
  • Seal your home. Insulate your home so you don’t have to turn up the heat. Close any air leaks in doors, windows, attics, and crawl spaces with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping.
  • Hydrate often. Keep your skin and mouth moist by drinking water throughout the day. Don’t like water? Tea and juice are also good ways to rehydrate.
  • Shorten your showers. Long, hot showers might feel great on frigid winter mornings, but the heat and steam can really dry out your skin. Turn the water temperature down to warm — not hot — and use a gentle soap. Get out as soon as you’re clean, or under 15 minutes, whichever comes first.
  • Pat dry. When drying after bath or shower, pat dry — don’t rub. Rubbing will remove the skin cells and oils you’ve just applied.
  • Moisturize. Immediately after patting dry, apply a quality cream- or ointment-based moisturizer. The oil in the product will lock moisture into your skin and keep it from drying out. Moisturizers come in different forms, but ointments will provide the most protection for dry skin.
  • Don’t forget lips and nails. Also apply a lip balm or petroleum jelly to protect against chapped lips. Help keep your nasal passageways moist by using salt water (saline) drops or rubbing a little petroleum jelly into each nostril gently with a cotton swab. Moisturize fingernails and cuticles as nails love moisture and can dry out and break more easily in the winter.

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