Cold, dry air and intense indoor heating is a perfect formula for wintertime skin issues, whether your skin simply feels tight and uncomfortable, it’s so dry that it’s cracking and flaking or it’s so inflamed that you’re constantly itching. Stop using gloves and mittens as an excuse to hide rough, cracked hands—keep your skin moisturized during the winter by following these tips.
Wear protective outerwear when you go outside, but avoid irritation from fabrics like wool by wearing it over a thin cotton-based layer. Ditch your wet socks, gloves and other outerwear as soon as you’re out of the cold. The fabric’s wetness on your skin—especially the more sensitive skin on your hands—can cause irritation, itching, cracking and even sores if left on too long.
But stay hydrated.
If you’re cozying up to your space heater or blasting your heating system, you’re exposing yourself to hot, dry air that can lead to dry, itchy skin. Combat this by setting up several small humidifiers in your home or workspace to distribute skin-saving moisture.
Keep that moisture locked into your skin for as long as possible by using an oil-based moisturizer; the oil creates a protective layer, keeping moisture in. Look for an oil-based moisturizer that is labeled non-clogging, so that the oil will soak into the skin instead of just sitting on top of it. For the tougher skin on your feet, try exfoliating accumulated dead skin off before applying a lotion with petroleum jelly or glycerine.
Stay warm (not hot)…
Moisturizers are most effective when applied after a shower or bath, but keep an eye on your water temperature. Steaming hot showers are tempting after spending time in the cold, but the temperature intensity breaks down barriers in the skin that leads to loss of moisture. Stick to warm water and limit your tub time. If you’re especially itchy, try a lukewarm bath with oatmeal or baking soda to calm skin.
And stay protected.
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean it’s time to skip the sunscreen. Sunlight at any time of year can damage skin—if you’re squinting against the glare of the sun against snow, think of how that’s impacting your skin as well! Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen on any exposed skin about half an hour before going outside, and reapply if you’re exposed for more than an hour or sweating heavily. In addition to the SPF, cut back on any alcohol-based facial products that strip your skin of its natural oils or clay-based products that draw moisture out of skin.
If you’re experiencing chronic inflammation, itchiness or other skin issues, it might be a good idea to talk to your clinician about his or her recommended products and care regimens for your specific skin type and needs. Take care of your skin and keep a healthy winter glow!
Author: Michele Holder MD
Dr. Holder specializes in the treatment and diagnosis of disorders of the skin for all ages, and is known to be committed to comprehensive, compassionate patient care. Dr. Holder earned her medical degree at the University of Iowa College of Medicine-Iowa City. She served her residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, University of Iowa-Iowa City.