We are all familiar with seasonal changes … There’s a chill in the air, a cool breeze sets in, and the outdoor temperature falls. You turn on the furnace and gradually your skin feels dry, causing an uncontrollable urge to itch. Many refer to this as ‘winter itch’. The combination of low humidity and indoor heat produces dry air. It’s important to seal moisture into your skin to prevent dryness, which causes itching. The more you itch, the more you irritate your skin, and the drier it becomes. You may need to adjust your skin care regimen during winter months by using heavier moisturizers and fragrance-free skin care products which tend to be less irritating.
The following skin care tips will help you establish a daily routine to help avoid dry skin during the winter months.
Don’t bathe or shower with hot water; use lukewarm water.
Hot showers or baths add to the loss of natural oils that protect our skin from dryness. Minimize the use of skin cleansers and avoid using harsh soaps that can worsen dry skin conditions. Using mild and gentle cleansers will help maintain healthy skin.
Moisturize after showering or bathing.
Pat yourself dry with a towel (do not wipe) and apply a mild and gentle moisturizer immediately. Apply liberally as needed on face, hands, body, and feet. For severely dry skin, use an ointment to help protect your skin and maintain moisture. If you have oily skin, you may still need to use a lotion which is lighter than a cream. Any skin that feels tight or dry after bathing will benefit from a moisturizer.
Maintain your skin’s moisture 24 hours a day.
Use a moisturizer several times during the day and at bedtime. Reapply as needed, especially after washing your hands and exposure to cold, wind, and sun.
Use a humidifier to increase moisture in the house.
Heating the interior air in a house drives off moisture. The simplest way to increase the interior air moisture level is to run a humidifier at night.
If dandruff becomes a problem.
During the winter months, your scalp may also become dry and itchy. Dandruff is common and appears as white flakes in the hair and on your shoulders. An over-the-counter medicated shampoo may be all you need to help control flaking and itching. Alternate shampoos occasionally for best results and use hair conditioner after shampooing to help leave hair and scalp soft and feeling renewed and conditioned. Hair sprays and gels that are free of common irritants may help reduce further irritation.
Continue to wear sunscreen on exposed areas of the skin.
Higher altitudes along with cold, dry winds can lead to dryness of the skin. Your hands and face are particularly vulnerable, as they are most likely to be exposed. Exposed skin needs to be protected from harmful sun rays, especially in higher altitudes and areas with snow covered ground. Apply a high SPF broad-spectrum sunscreen for winter sun protection every day. Don’t forget your lips. Use a lip protectant with sunscreen.
Read the ingredient list when choosing skin and hair care products.
Avoid products that may have ingredients with potentially irritating or drying effects on your skin. Check your label for common chemical irritants. The use of fragrance-free, unscented, and hypoallergenic skin care products may help prevent further irritation to dry skin.
Always consult a dermatologist
Make an appointment with a dermatologist if you have concerns about your skin condition. Itching, flaking, and redness could be signs of an associated dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, or other skin condition which may require treatment from a skin specialist.