By: Dr. Michael S. Pomroy, Dermatologist
Although Healthy Skin Month is coming to a close, winter is just getting started! Dry skin can occur at any time throughout the year, but it is most prevalent in the winter when the low humidity, cold temperatures and harsh winds can damage your skin’s natural barrier to the environment. To help keep you skin soft and itch-free, follow these ten tips:
1. Bathe in lukewarm water. Hot water may feel good, but it can be very damaging to your skin.
2. Use mild, fragrance-free cleansers. Many soaps are harsh detergents, which can damage your skin while cleaning it. Choose a mild, fragrance-free, soap-free cleanser. It is important to understand that unscented does not mean fragrance-free. Unscented means that a “masking” fragrance is used to ensure the product has no scent.
3. Moisturize after showering or hand-washing. Apply a lotion or cream as soon as you finish washing your hands or bathing. Moisturizing while your skin is still damp will help to lock in moisture during the harsh winter months.
4. If your skin is particularly dry, use creams instead of lotions. Creams are far more hydrating than lotions. Read the label carefully; in general, lotions tend to come in a pump form, while creams come in a tub or tube.
5. Choose non-irritating clothing and laundry detergent. Wool and other rough fabrics can be irritating to your skin. If you do wear wool, wear cotton, silk, or other soft fabrics underneath. Use laundry detergent that is free of fragrance and dyes and avoid using fabric softener and dryer sheets.
6. Use a humidifier. Humidity levels during the winter are very low. Dry air literally sucks the water out of your skin. Even if you do not have a central unit, scattering a few smaller units throughout the house can be helpful. Aim for an indoor moisture level between 40% and 50%. Investing in an inexpensive hygrometer (humidity monitor) can help you easily keep track of your house’s humidity.
7. Do not sit directly in front of a fireplace or space heater. This can cause quick and dramatic drying of the skin.
8. Wear lip balm. The lips are very prone to dryness in the colder months and can result in painful cracking. Choose something that feels good on your lips and has as few ingredients as possible.
9. Apply sunscreen — even during winter. It’s important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays on cold, dreary days in the winter. Before going outside, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher to all exposed areas of your body.
10. Talk to a pro. Following these simple tips can be very helpful in treating and avoiding most cases of “winter itch.” If you’re skin gets exceptionally dry and these tips aren’t helping, or if you develop eczema or another skin irritation, consult a dermatologist.