Does your smooth skin head south as soon as winter sets in? The combination of cold, less-humid air outside and artificial heating indoors may leave you dry and itchy. What can you do to avoid scratching and flaking your way through the winter months? Try these tips from the American Academy of Dermatology to keep your skin supple until the spring thaw.
You may love the way a long, hot bath, or shower feels on a cold day—but it can wreak havoc on your skin. Hot water dries out the skin, and lingering in water washes away your skin’s protective oils. Try using lukewarm water instead of hot water and keep an eye on the clock. Limit your shower or bath time to 5 to 10 minutes, once a day.
Your skin should feel smooth and soft after bathing. If it feels dry or tight, you may need to use a different soap. Deodorant soaps can be particularly harsh on the skin. A gentle skin cleanser or shower gel is best for dry skin; a mild soap with added moisturizers or oils is a good alternative. You may want to try several brands until you find one you like. It’s best to use soaps and cleansers only on areas that need it, such as your face, underarms, genital area, and feet.
Rubbing your body vigorously with a washcloth or towel—in or out of the tub—can irritate your skin. Instead, wash your skin gently with your hands or a soft cleansing sponge. Pat dry with a towel, but leave some moisture on the skin.
It is less irritating to your skin to shave right after bathing or showering when hairs are soft. A shaving cream or gel that is left on the skin for approximately 3 minutes before starting to shave will also reduce irritation. Shave in the direction of hair growth and ensure that your razor blade is sharp. A dull blade can irritate dry skin.
The best time to apply moisturizer is right after you bathe, while your skin is still damp. This helps lock in extra moisture. Creams and oils are best for dry skin. Look for products that are fragrance-free.
Central heating and wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are a must for winter warmth, but they can dry out your house—and your skin. Using a humidifier can help add some moisture back to both. Drinking plenty of water is another good way to make sure that your skin gets moisture.
Natural fibers such as silk and cotton let your skin breathe. If you find that wool irritates your skin, try wearing other fabrics for winter warmth. When washing your clothes, look for detergents that are free of perfumes and dyes—these can irritate your skin. Fabric softeners can also cause problems for dry skin.
If your skin is still dry, flaky, or irritated after trying these self-care tips, you may want to talk with your health care provider about other ways to care for your skin in the winter.