Cold, dry air can leave skin itchy, red, and irritated. Combat dry winter skin with these tips for retaining your skin's natural moisture.
Dry winter air can wreak havoc on your skin — leaving it dry, itchy, and irritated; but there are many simple ways to combat dry skin causes and help keep your skin feeling moist and supple all winter long. Here are 10 ways to get started.
Top 10 Tips for Healthy Winter Skin
1. Invest in a humidifier. Using a humidifier in your home or office will add moisture to dry winter air and help keep your skin hydrated. Run a humidifier in the rooms you spend the most time in, including your bedroom.
2. Lower the thermostat. When it's chilly outside, what's the first thing you want to do? Crank up the heat! But central heat can make the air in your house even drier. Try setting the thermostat at a cool, yet comfortable setting — 68°F to 72°F — to maintain healthy skin.
3. Skip hot showers. Although it may be tempting to warm up with a long, steamy shower, hot water dries out your skin by stripping it of its natural oils. Instead, take a 5- to 10-minute lukewarm shower (or bath). You should also avoid using excessively hot water when washing your hands — if the water causes your skin to turn red, it’s too hot.
4. Choose cleanser wisely. The wrong soap can worsen itchy, dry skin. For instance, steer clear of regular bar soaps, since they tend to contain irritating ingredients and fragrances. Instead, start washing with a fragrance-free, moisturizing cleanser or gel. You can also prevent winter skin problems by using less soap, so limit your lathering to necessary areas, such as your hands, armpits, genitals, and feet.
5. Modify your facial skin care regimen for the season. During the winter months, choose cream-based cleansers, and apply toners and astringents sparingly, if at all. Many astringents contain alcohol, which can further dry your skin. Look for products that contain little or no alcohol — unless your skin is excessively oily. At night, use a richer moisturizer on your face.
Related: What's My Skin Type?
6. Moisturize frequently. Maintain healthy skin by moisturizing after washing up. "Blot skin dry and apply a thick moisturizer within a few minutes after bathing to seal the water into the skin," says Linda Stein Gold, MD, director of dermatology clinical research and division head of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital, West Bloomfield, MI. "It's best to use a cream or ointment in the winter. Lotions are better in warmer, humid climates. And don't forget your hands,” says Dr. Stein Gold. "Constant washing will cause the hands to take a beating. Apply hand cream after each washing, and wear waterproof gloves when washing dishes or cleaning around the house."
7. Apply sunscreen — even in winter. It is still important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays on cold, dreary days in winter. Before going outside, apply a moisturizing, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to all exposed areas of your body.
Related: Sunblock Guide
8. Wear appropriate clothing. Many cold-weather fabrics can aggravate dry winter skin. "Keep wool and rough clothing from directly touching your skin," says Stein Gold. "This can cause dry skin to get irritated and itchy." Wear soft, breathable materials against your skin, and then pull on a warmer sweater. Protect your hands from cold winter air with gloves or mittens. Remember to choose a pair that won’t irritate your skin. If you prefer wool gloves, put cotton or silk glove liners on first.
9. Eat right and stay hydrated. "Sometimes when skin is very dry, it can be helped by foods or supplements that contain omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids, such as fish oil and flaxseed oil," says Barbara R. Reed, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, CO, and in private practice at Denver Skin Clinic. "For the most part, however, it is important to help the skin moisturize from the outside."
10. Change out of wet clothes quickly. Wearing wet clothes and shoes can further irritate your skin and cause itchiness. Be sure to remove wet gloves, socks, and pants as soon as possible.
If you still experience dryness, discomfort, and irritation after trying these healthy skin tips, Stein Gold suggests using an over-the-counter, 1-percent hydrocortisone cream. "If you don't see improvement in a few days, talk with your doctor," Stein Gold says. You may need a prescription-strength moisturizer to overcome winter's drying effects on your skin.
Get more tips for dry winter skin.