Winter Skin Care Suggestions
How to cope with dry skin that is itchy, red, or flaky
Many things change when the seasons change, such as switching cooler summer garments for a warmer winter wardrobe or lighter evening dishes for heartier soups and stews. Unfortunately, winter can also cause changes in your skin. When the temperature becomes cooler, dry skin becomes particularly frequent.
Natural oils, which operate as a barrier of protection and hydration, trap humidity or moisture in our skin. According to dermatologist Alejandra Estemalik, MD, dry skin is often caused by a compromised skin barrier. Your skin isn’t operating as effectively as it should because of a reduction in natural oils caused by overwashing or utilizing items that dry out your skin.
Itching, flakiness, and redness are common dry skin signs, but in extreme situations, your skin may split or bleed. Dr. Estemalik offers some advice so you don’t have to spend the entire winter unpleasant and uncomfortable in your own flesh.
Why is my winter skin so dry?
It’s a perfect storm of environmental factors. Not only is the outdoor humidity reduced, but frigid weather means you’ll be spending more time indoors, which isn’t necessarily good for your skin. “Environmental humidity is low in the winter,” adds Dr. Estemalik. “However, we are also subjected to forced air or heat, which reduces humidity indoors and causes dry skin.”
You are also exposed to less sunshine in the winter due to the natural ebb and flow of the seasons. Aside from being a rich source of vitamin D, sunshine is also a natural anti-inflammatory, which can assist with a variety of health issues.
“In the summer, you’re exposed to chlorine and sunscreen, which are skin irritants,” explains Dr. Estemalik. “However, you’re also in the sun.” We have light treatment — or phototherapy — for patients with eczema who have flare-ups in the winter because it can make their skin less irritated.”
Aside from seasonal fluctuations, genetics can influence whether someone develops dry skin. Some people have dry skin because they don’t create enough filaggrin, a protein that aids in the formation and hydration of your skin barrier.
Winter skincare recommendations
Caring for dry skin in the winter requires a mix of behavior modifications, product substitutions, and careful reading of ingredient labels.
Shower time and frequency should be limited
A lengthy, hot shower feels nice when it’s cold outside, but it’s not so great if you have dry skin. “It’s chilly, so everyone thinks a hot shower is a wonderful treatment,” Dr. Estemalik explains. “However, excessive washing will dry out your skin.” The heat from the water removes the oils from your skin. However, the hot water will also dry out your skin. The warmer the water, the drier your skin will be.”
Dr. Estemalik suggests taking 5- to 10-minute showers and bathing every other day if you don’t become sweaty while exercising. “You don’t need to shower every day if you work out three times a week.”
After bathing, apply moisturizer
Moisturizing your skin is also important. After taking a shower, massage your skin dry with a towel and apply moisturizer right away. “Most moisturizers’ job is to trap moisture in your skin,” explains Dr. Estemalik. “When you apply moisturizer to extremely dry skin, it won’t be very effective since there is no moisture to capture.” Applying moisturizer on damp skin is far more effective, especially if your skin is already dry.”
Look for fragrance-free items
Dr. Estemalik has a solid rule of thumb when it comes to purchasing products: “The nicer they smell, the more irritating they are for your skin.” Those are what I term micro-irritations. We amass micro-irritants, causing your skin to become dry, itchy, and damaged.” Fragrance-free moisturizers, such as the old standby Vaseline®, are excellent choices.
It’s also vital to keep laundry day fragrance-free. “Detergent carries scent, and we add dryer sheets on top of that,” Dr. Estemalik explains. “They make your clothing seem incredibly clean, but they’re another irritant that comes into touch with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” You’re wearing pajamas even while you’re not wearing your regular clothing. So this is something you’re dealing with all day.”
Carefully examine the ingredient list
Not all moisturizers are made the same – or with the same ingredients. “Lotions are much more popular because they’re easy to apply,” adds Dr. Estemalik, “but it doesn’t always imply that’s the greatest sort of agent to moisturize your skin.” “Lotions include a lot of alcohol and scent, both of which are skin irritants. However, dermatologists prefer creams over lotions.”
When shopping for cream, for example, study the ingredient list and choose goods with hyaluronic acid and ceramide — both moisture-friendly substances — rather than botanicals such as lavender tea tree oil or coconut oil.
Other skin care products that you may use on a regular basis may also include skin-irritating substances. Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are common ingredients in acne medicines, whereas alpha hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, and retinol are common ingredients in anti-aging therapies.
One approach is to use these items less regularly. “While anti-aging creams may be effective in the summer, the substances that stimulate rapid skin cell turnover may be excessively drying in the winter,” explains Dr. Estemalik. “When it comes to the winter and anti-aging products, limit your use to three or four times each week rather than every day.” She goes on to say that the same is true for acne medication.
Soap is notorious for removing the oils from your skin. Exfoliating too much might also be harmful. “Many individuals may perceive flakiness and dryness on the skin and assume, ‘Oh, I need to exfoliate,'” explains Dr. Estemalik. “However, exfoliating is really effective. It removes moisture or oils from your skin and might make it itchier and drier.” She suggests exfoliating once or twice a week at most.
Keep your hands safe
Dry skin on your hands is fairly frequent. “We’re using a lot of alcohol-containing sanitizers, especially during COVID-19,” she explains. “That’s an unpleasant and drying chemical.” You don’t have to stop sanitizing; simply moisturize as much as possible with anything containing dimethicone, a silicone-based lotion that’s fantastic for dry skin.
Wear gloves while going outside in the cold, as well as when doing something that will get your hands wet, such as doing dishes or washing your car. Contact with chemical greases and other harsher micro-irritants will also cause your hands to dry up.
Make use of a humidifier
Using a humidifier in your sleeping area can help mitigate the consequences of spending a lot of time in dry and low-humidity surroundings. Dr. Estemalik suggests setting the machine to between 30% and 50% humidity.
Is it possible that there’s more than just dry winter skin?
Sometimes. Adults over the age of 40, for example, have naturally drier skin and should use moisturizers on a regular basis. “Your skin, like your hair, is not the same beyond that age,” adds Dr. Estemalik. “Our skin naturally generates less oil as we age.”
Seasonal changes that aren’t always related to the weather might also have an impact on some ailments. According to Dr. Estemalik, Christmas stress and coffee use might aggravate rosacea. A lack of sunshine also has an impact on the anti-inflammatory disorder psoriasis. Furthermore, she continues, eczema can flare up and worsen in the summer because your skin is more sensitive to perspiration or because you swim a lot.
Dry skin, on the other hand, might be a symptom of a completely unrelated health problem, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, renal failure, or a nutritional deficit. The key to determining what’s wrong is to keep an eye out for particular signs.
“Watch for severe itching,” advises Dr. Estemalik. “You should see a doctor if your skin is becoming darker in the regions where you’re scratching, and if there are spots that are continuously rough, flaky, and red.”
Another red indicator is inflamed skin that begins to crust over since this might indicate a bacterial infection. “We observe bacterial and viral infections in eczema patients,” Dr. Estemalik explains. “If your skin is red, irritated, and scaly, and you see crusting, especially yellow crusting, it’s time to consult a doctor.” If you have severe itching and your skin is bleeding, you should see a doctor.”
In some cases, over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream may be beneficial. When in doubt, though, consulting a doctor is the best option. After all, in certain cases, a medicated cream or lotion is the best alternative. “I see a lot of individuals who say, ‘Oh, I have eczema, and I’m going to moisturize more and more,'” Dr. Estemalik explains. “Sometimes moisturizer isn’t enough, and you need something medicinal.” You require assistance.”