Dry skin is especially common as enter into winter. Indoor heating goes on and there’s cold and blustery weather outside; both of which rob skin of its natural moisture. When the weather is cold, the humidity is low, which translates to a decrease in the air’s moisture content. Dry air causes our skin to become dry–it draws moisture out from the uppermost layers of our skin.
Since our skin’s surface holds a certain amount of water, a decrease in its moisture content causes skin to become dry, red, itchy, rough, flaky, cracked, chapped and uncomfortable. Individuals with certain skin conditions can also be more prone to winter-induced dry skin, including those with atopic dermatitis (eczema) or psoriasis. Winter’s chilly temperatures can also be a trigger for allergy sufferers. Cold-induced urticaria causes hives–red swellings on the skin that itch, burn and sting.
Rapid changes in temperature can also affect the skin. When the skin is exposed to cold and then warmed after exposure, skin can become inflamed, red and itchy. Other causes of dry, itchy skin in the winter include overheating or sweating, or coming into contact with certain irritants, including fabrics like wool, soaps or food.
Although winter skin can be difficult to deal with, here are some tips to prevent dry and itchy skin during this cold season:
• The first thing to do is to keep skin protected when you go outside–bundle up and keep skin covered…wear gloves and a hat. Lubricating skin with lotions and creams can also safeguard skin before going outside.
• Stay hydrated: drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
• Take a quick (no greater than 10 minutes) lukewarm shower. Avoid hot water. Prolonged exposure to hot water dehydrates skin and strips skin of its natural moisturizing factors.
• When you get out of the shower, “dry yourself damp”. Pat yourself dry, but leave some dampness. Apply moisturizer to your damp skin–this will help “seal in” the moisture.
• Keep skin clean– use a mild cleanser and cleanse gently. Cleansing will help slough off environmental debris, dirt, oil and dead skin cells. Avoid harsh soaps or cleansers which can irritate and worsen dry skin.
• Moisturize every day–face and body.
• Avoid excessive friction on the skin and stay away from irritants or allergens.
• Use a humidifier. A humidifier will help to keep indoor air moist (by the way humidified air is also easier to breathe). Make use of a humidifier in your bedroom–be sure to close the door to keep the humidified air in.
• Avoid overheating your home and office–keep room air cool by keeping the thermostat low.
Cool air, low humidity levels, dry indoor heat and merciless winter winds can all wreck and wreak havoc on your skin. In spite of the fact it’s not so uncommon to experience dry, itchy, flaky skin in the winter, following these suggestions may help. As always, if you find that your dry skin is not improving, consider seeking professional help.