Days are getting shorter, the temperature’s dropping, and the air is getting drier. That means it’s time to prepare to counteract the drying effects that colder temperatures in the fall and winter can have on your skin. Keep reading to learn more about dry skin symptoms, causes, and our top 15 remedies for dry skin.
Dry Skin Symptoms
Changes in the weather and dry skin can lead to all of the following symptoms:
- Scaly or flaky skin
- Rough or changing texture
- Ashy skin that may appear gray or white
- Cracks in the skin that may bleed
- Chapped lips
- Infection due to germs accumulating in cracks causing red spots and sores
Dry Skin Causes
Dry skin is caused by the loss of too much water or oil. Anyone can experience dry skin, though it becomes more common for people who are older than 40. There are many things that cause dry skin, including:
- Genetic predisposition – some people are naturally more likely to experience dry skin due to their genetic makeup.
- Climate – if you live in a dry climate like a desert (or winter almost anywhere), you’re at greater risk for dry skin.
- Skin disease – eczema, psoriasis, and other skin diseases.
- Job hazards – people who need to frequently wash their hands (medical professionals), those who handle chemicals regularly (hair stylists), and a number of other professionals may have dry skin caused by job hazards.
- Swimming – if you swim regularly, the high levels of chlorine can strip moisture from your skin.
- Exposure to heat sources – sitting close to a fireplace or heat source can also strip the skin of moisture.
How Winter Weather Effects the Skin
Cold temperatures often lead to low humidity that can dry the skin. This is especially true if the climate is very windy. During dry winter months, skin conditions like eczema are much more likely to flare up and skin will generally be dryer. In both hot and cold weather, you should be aware of and takes steps to avoid the effects of the sun. Not only does sun exposure put you at risk for cancers, burns, and premature aging, it also dries out your skin.
15 Effective Dry Skin Remedies
If you’re struggling with dry skin, you’ll find our top 15 remedies to help you keep your skin looking and feeling great all winter long below:
1 – Change Your Hygiene Routine
The first step is to limit your time in the shower or bath to just 5 or 10 minutes. It may not seem like much, but any longer than this can strip away too much moisture from your skin. Keep the bathroom door closed during your shower to hold in humidity. Use warm water but not hot. Hot water is much more likely to strip moisture from the skin. When applying cleanser, use enough to remove oils and dirt, but don’t form a thick lather as this can eliminate too much moisture. When drying your skin, blot dry with your towel rather than rubbing.
2 – Apply Moisturizer Immediately After You Shower
As soon as you’re done in the shower, apply moisturizer. To trap in the maximum amount of moisture, you should apply your moisturizer within a few minutes of your shower or bath and after washing your face or hands.
3 – Switch to an Ointment or Cream Rather Than Lotion
Rather than lotion, use an ointment or cream. These products are less likely to irritate the skin, and they can create a barrier between skin and drying elements and other irritants. Some ingredients that can specifically address dry skin include olive or jojoba oil, shea butter, lactic acid, urea, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, lanolin, and petroleum jelly.
4 – Carry Hand Cream with You
Follow the Boy Scout motto – “Always be prepared!” Bring a good hand cream with you. Choose one that contains some of the ingredients listed above. You should apply a light layer of non-greasy hand cream after each hand washing. This significantly reduces the loss of moisture in the hands throughout the day.
5 – Use Sunscreen (Even in the Winter!)
UV rays from the sun have many negative effects on the skin, including drying. Look for a moisturizer with SPF built in that you can apply to your face, hands, neck, and other exposed areas of the skin as protection from the harmful effects of sunlight year-round.
6 – Wear Lip Balm
Choose a lip balm that is soothing to your lips. Many medicated balms have mint in them, and this can cause tingling or burning. Find a product that moisturizes and soothes instead. It may sound counter-intuitive, but most lip balms have high levels of alcohol that will dry your lips. Ingredients on the packaging are listed from the highest to the lowest amount. Look for products that have alcohol listed towards the end of the ingredient list.
7 – Use Gentle Products
All soaps, lotions, deodorants, and even laundry detergents should be gentle on skin. Unscented products are typically best as the chemicals used to create fragrances can be very harsh. When you’re dealing with dry skin, you want products that help your skin retain its natural oils, so don’t use deodorant soaps or products with alcohol, fragrance, retinoids, or alpha-hydroxy acid (sometimes called AHA on the packaging).
8 – Wear Gloves
During the winter months, the hands are often the first places we notice our dry skin. The knuckles can crack and bleed, and the skin may appear red or flaky. To avoid skin irritation on the hands, you should wear gloves when you go outdoors in cool, dry weather, if your hands will be wet, or to avoid getting chemicals on the skin.
9 – Choose Light, Breathable Clothing
You should wear clothing that will not cause further irritation, so before you pull on your winter woolens, put on a layer of light, breathable cotton or silk to protect the skin.
10 – Avoid Direct Exposure to Fires & Heat Sources
It may be tempting to snuggle up by the fire on a cold night, but don’t sit too close to your fireplace or heat registers as the hot air will zap all the moisture from your skin.
11 – Add Moisture to the Air
Running heaters during the winter makes the air in our homes very dry, which increases skin dryness. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Some newer heating and cooling systems have a humidifier built in. Check to see if this is a function of your system and whether or not it’s working.
12 – Don’t Skip Hand Washing
Even though frequent hand washing can increase dryness in the hands, it also removes harmful bacteria that can cause infections, especially while dry skin is cracked.
13 – Moisturize after Hand Washing
Instead of skipping your hand washing, use a moisturizer immediately after. Carry a good quality, non-greasy hand cream with you.
14 – Use Petroleum Jelly
If you have spots that are very dry (often the knuckles, elbows, knees, and the heels of your feet), you can apply a layer of petroleum jelly. This creates a barrier between the skin and drying agents, sealing in moisture. Gentle and effective, you can use this product as often as you like, but we recommend application before bed since you won’t have to worry about the greasy appearance on the skin.
15 – Visit Your Dermatologist
Finally, don’t forget your dermatologist is your partner in all things skincare, including attention for dry skin. At U.S. Dermatology Partners, we are happy to help you with products and treatment options to keep skin moist. For severely dry skin, we can even offer medications like corticosteroids and immune modulators to relieve itching, redness, and inflammation of the skin. If you want to find out more, please take a few moments to complete the online appointment request to visit a U.S. Dermatology Partners location near you.
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