Winter always brings out the worst in my skin–dry skin that itches, flakes, cracks, and even bleeds at times. It’s nothing new as I’ve dealt with it all my life. As with all things, one learns to live with it and find ways to relieve the problem as best as possible. To some extent, winter and dry skin go hand in hand for nearly everyone.
Here’s some tips that I’ve learned over the years from dermatologists, friends, and by trial and error:
- Minimize moisture loss while showering or bathing. Limit shower or bath time to 5 to 10 minutes using warm, not hot, water. Avoid lathering and harsh soaps or cleansers choosing instead a cleanser or soap that is gentle and fragrance-free. Blot the skin dry with a soft towel and slather on a good moisturizer immediately after drying. Also, keeping the bathroom or shower door closed until the moisturizer is applied is helpful.
- Apply moisturizer immediately after washing. Ointments, creams, and lotions (moisturizers) work by trapping existing moisture in your skin. To trap this much-needed moisture, you need to apply a moisturizer within a few minutes of showering or washing your hands or face. Applying moisture after every hand washing is tough, but keeping a bottle of moisturizer beside every sink helps make it happen. Also, it helps to carry a non-greasy hand cream with you; I even keep one in the car.
- Use an ointment or cream rather than a lotion. Ointments and creams are more effective and less irritating than lotions. Look for creams or ointments that contain oil such as olive oil or jojoba oil. Shea butter also works well. Other ingredients that help to soothe dry skin include lactic acid, urea, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, lanolin, mineral oil, and petroleum.
- Wear lip balm. Choose a lip balm that feels good and does not irritate your lips. I keep lip balm everywhere–in my nightstand, bathroom, office desk, purse, back pack, and other rooms in my house. Lip balm is also great on cuticles, scabs, dry skin patches, and around the nose when bothered by a cold. Lip balm made with beeswax provides additional benefits of antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties that are essential in fighting chapped skin and bacterial infections that tend to affect us most in the dry, winter months. It forms a protective wall by sealing in moisture in our skin without smothering and clogging up the pores.
- Carefully select skin care products. Not all skin care products are created equal. Choose products that are free of alcohol, fragrance, retinoids, or alpha hydroxy acid (AHA); all of these ingredients dry the skin of it’s natural oils.
- Wear gloves. Gloves are a must before performing household tasks, going outside, or exposing hands to chemicals, greases or other drying substances. Hands are often the first to scream “dry skin.”
- Use non-irritating laundry detergent. Use laundry detergents labeled ‘hypoallergenic’ to avoid further irritation to dry or raw skin. These detergents are also fragrance free.
- Wear cotton or silk undergarments. Avoid wool and other fibers that irritate skin.
- Avoid fireplaces or other dry-heat sources. Open flame heat sources tend to dry skin. If a space heater is needed, use a radiant-type heater rather than a convection heater.
- Add moisture to the air. Using a humidifier in the home is a great help; not only is it good for the skin but also helps with nose bleeds and other issues caused by dry air.
If these tips do not bring relief, seek the help of a dermatologist who can prescribe an ointment or cream that may be more beneficial or check for a skin condition that is beyond simple dry skin.