Dry Skin Season Alert: Actionable Tips For Itch-Free Fall and Winter Skin

Cold air, central heat, increasing winds, and less humidity means that your once luscious skin will begin to dry out.

Rough hands, chapped lips, itchy legs—it may seem like you’re fighting a never-ending battle with dry fall and winter skin.

Humidity helps keep your skin moist and healthy, and when the humidity drops below 40 %, your skin begins to lose moisture, causing dryness and irritation.

If your skin is exposed to decreased levels of humidity for several days, it can become severely dry, flaky and inflamed. The clear, cold days of late fall and winter can dry out your skin’s natural barrier.

Cold air, central heat, increasing winds, and less humidity means that your once luscious skin will begin to dry out, leading to dull skin, an itchy scalp, and cracked feet and hands.

While these conditions are uncomfortable, having overly dry skin also affects your self-esteem. And as skin is designed to protect us from infection, illness, and allergens, it’s essential to tend to it.

When there’s cold air outside and heat cranking inside, you need more than a good cream to keep skin soft and supple. Read on to learn some great tips to keep your dry skin feel and look healthy in the cold season.

Pick the right moisturizer

Look for products containing ingredients such as ceramides (oils), dimethicone (a type of silicone), and shea butter, which help provide a good seal on the skin. Alpha hydroxy acids, such as lactic acid, can also help slough off dead skin cells, dermatologists say. (They can, however, be irritating to some.)

Doctors agree that thick, greasy ointments such as petroleum jelly form a stronger barrier than creams and lotions.

Can’t tolerate the greasiness? Use a thick cream, experts suggest. In fact, the thicker the better. A good test of thickness is to place some in a palm and turn your hand over. If a portion slides off, it’s not thick enough.

Avoid harsh cleansers

All soaps are drying, experts point out, but exfoliants, alcohol-based cleansers, and scented soaps can be especially irritating.

Stick with gentle cleansers that are labeled “fragrance-free.” Body washes may be better than bar soaps because they tend to contain more moisturizing ingredients.

Rub cleansers only onto the “fold” areas of your skin—underarms, neck, and groin—and feet. Use very little, if any, on your trunk and limbs. Those areas don’t get very dirty with sweat, and you’re really drying out the skin more than you’re helping it.

Put away your exfoliating tools

Stow those sonic body brushes, washcloths, loofahs, tough scrubbers, and bath sponges for winter, as they may cause irritation and inflammation to already dry skin.

Skin cells are constantly dying. As sad as that sounds, it’s actually a healthy thing because they’re always being replaced with fresh new cells. When you exfoliate – scrub away the dry, dead cells – you accelerate that process and prevent your skin from looking dull and pasty.

Pick up a gentle scrub – something with a mild glycolic or lactic acid to get off the dead skin.

For those with raw or severely dry skin, skip the exfoliator and incorporate a wet washcloth instead for a gentler option.

Similarly, when you step out of the shower, don’t rub skin aggressively with a towel; pat or blot skin dry gently and moisturize immediately.

It’s also a good idea to simply shower less often in winter.

Ban superhot baths

Sure, soaking in a burning-hot bath feels great after frolicking out in the cold. But the intense heat of a hot shower or bath actually breaks down the lipid barriers in the skin, which can lead to a loss of moisture.

Hot water dehydrates skin and strips it of natural oils, so the longer you’re in hot water, the more damage you’ll see.

You're better off with just warm water, doctors advise, and staying in the water a shorter amount of time.

A lukewarm bath with oatmeal or baking soda can help relieve skin that is so dry it has become itchy, experts note. So, too, can periodically reapplying your moisturizer.

Use a humidifier

During the fall and winter, chances are your heat runs constantly. During the cold season, as humidity levels drop, the cold air loses most of its moisture and becomes dry, in turn, drawing moisture from your skin.

A humidifier is a useful way to add moisture to the air and help your skin feel more supple upon waking up - the true essence of a beauty sleep. Add a humidifier to your room at night to help with dry skin.

Humidifiers help make dry air more comfortable by increasing the water vapor. It's basically a moisturizer for the air.

It’s especially important to use a humidifier overnight. In addition to keeping your skin moist, this keeps your sinus passages clear and better equipped to fight off germs. Plus, you no longer wake up with gunk in your eyes.

If you bring these little changes into your routine in winter, your skin should start to feel better quickly. If these changes do not bring relief, you may want to see a dermatologist. Very dry skin can require a prescription ointment or cream.

Or you may have a condition that isn't simply dry skin and that requires different treatment. A dermatologist can examine your skin and explain what can help reduce your discomfort.

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