Winter brings many things for us: picturesque snowfalls, hot cocoa and warm nights by the fire — but it also brings dry skin. During the cold months, a combination of low humidity and indoor heat produces dry air, which causes your skin to feel dry and brings an uncontrollable urge to itch, or what some people call “winter itch.”
To prevent dryness and itching, it’s important to seal moisture into your skin. 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 the winter months by using heavier moisturizers and fragrance-free skin care products that tend to be less irritating.
These 8 winter skin care tips will help you establish a daily routine to help avoid dry and itchy skin when the temperatures begin to dip.
1. Shower and bathe with lukewarm water — not hot water
Hot showers and baths deplete the natural oils that protect our skin from dryness. Avoid using harsh skin cleansers and soaps that can worsen dry skin conditions. Instead, use a mild cleanser to help maintain healthy, soft skin.
2. Always use the best moisturizers after showering and bathing
When you’re done showering, always pat yourself dry with a towel — don’t rub or wipe your skin — and apply a high-quality moisturizing cream immediately. Apply moisturizer liberally as needed on your face, hands, body and feet. For severely dry skin, you should 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. Using a moisturizer will help any skin that feels tight or dry after bathing.
3. Use a moisturizer throughout the day, every day
To keep your skin fresh, it’s important to moisturize all day, every day — not just after you bathe. Re-apply your moisturizer as needed, especially after washing your hands and exposing your skin to cold, wind and sun. Keep a small travel-size lotion in your purse, pocket, backpack, desk — make sure it is always handy, visible and top-of-mind. If you’re suffering from extremely dry hands, apply a thick coat of moisturizer at bedtime and wear cotton gloves overnight for quicker relief.
4. Use a humidifier to increase moisture in your house
When you heat your home, you decrease the moisture in the air. The simplest way to increase the moisture level in your home is to run a humidifier at night. Humidifiers can increase the moisture by as much as 15 percent. During winter, aim for an indoor moisture level between 40% and 50%. Investing in a $5 hygrometer (humidity monitor) can help you easily keep track of your house’s humidity.
5. Change your hair care routine to address itchy scalp and dandruff
During the winter months, your scalp may also become dry and itchy. Dandruff is common and appears as white flakes in your hair and on your shoulders. An over-the-counter medicated shampoo may be all you need to help control flaking and itching. You can also try alternating shampoos occasionally for best results and using a hair conditioner after shampooing to help leave your hair and scalp feeling soft and renewed. Using irritant-free hair sprays and gels may also help reduce irritation.
6. Wear lip protection in the winter
Higher altitudes — along with cold, dry winds — can lead to dry, chapped lips. Your lips also need protection from harmful sun rays, especially in higher altitudes and areas with snow on the ground. Apply a lip protectant with sunscreen to help prevent and relieve dry, chapped lips.
7. Read your ingredient list when choosing skin and hair products
Avoid products that may have ingredients with potentially irritating or drying effects on your skin. Check your label for common chemical irritants. When looking for hypoallergenic skin care products, choose fragrance-free, unscented products which may help prevent further irritation to dry skin.
8. Always consult a dermatologist
You should talk 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 that may require additional treatment from a skin specialist.