In the wintertime, a number of factors can cause skin to dry out, leading to uncomfortable scaling, cracking and itching. Lower outdoor humidity along with exposure to forced air heating, wood-burning stoves, space heaters and fireplaces can all cause skin to lose moisture. Additionally, taking long, hot showers or baths and use of deodorant and antibacterial soaps can contribute to dry skin. Here are a few suggestions to help address this problem:
Modify bathing habits:
- Limit your bath or shower time to around 15 minutes in order to avoid removing moisturizing oils from your skin.
- Bath or shower with comfortably warm, rather than hot water.
- Use mild soaps such as Neutrogena, Basis or Dove. Try using as little soap as possible as even the best “moisturizing” soaps can have a drying effect. Deodorant and antibacterial soaps can be particularly harsh and drying to the skin.
- Pat your skin dry with a towel rather than rubbing.
Moisturize skin regularly:
- The best moisturizers, particularly for the body, hands and feet, are those that are oil-based, rather than water-based.
- Use a skin moisturizer once or twice a day. Eucerin, Lubriderm, Keri Lotion and Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion are examples of relatively inexpensive but effective moisturizers.
- Before purchasing a moisturizer, be sure and read the label to make sure that it does not contain alcohol.
- Apply the moisturizer shortly after bathing to help “seal” in moisture.
- Hands and feet may be particularly troublesome. Bert’s Bees Hand Repair Creme, Udder Cream, and Bag Balm are examples of moisturizers designed specifically for these areas.
- For very dry hands, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly and wear thin cotton gloves to bed.
- For splits in the skin around fingertips, try Lanolin Hydrous.
- Lips are more prone to drying and chapping in the wintertime also. Resist the temptation to lick your lips if they feel dry. Saliva removes oil and makes your lips even drier. Instead use lip balm or petroleum jelly.
Address lifestyle issues:
- Make sure to stay well hydrated. This will help to moisturize your skin from the “inside”.
- A portable home humidifier or one attached to your furnace adds moisture to the air inside your home.
- Turn down the thermostat in the house to help avoid the drying effect of heat and forced air movement.
Wintertime is a particularly challenging time to keep skin from drying out. For best results, start your skin moisturizing regimen early in the season and stay consistent with these measures to maintain skin hydration.