Winter is here bringing high winds and freezing temperatures outdoors and warm, dry air indoors. The weather can take a toll on skin, removing moisture and causing skin to itch, crack, and bleed. This can make skin vulnerable to infection, especially in older adults whose skin is thinner and more fragile. Individuals with eczema and seborrheic dermatitis may also experience worse symptoms in the winter.
Maintaining healthy skin in the winter requires a different routine than in warmer, more humid months. To protect your body’s largest organ, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends some simple tips:
- Keep baths or showers short. Limit your bathing time to 5-10 minutes using warm, not hot water. Wash with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser: only a small amount is needed; avoid thick lathers. Gently blot your skin dry with a towel.
- Moisturize immediately following your bath or shower. The moisturizer will be absorbed and work better if it’s trapped inside the skin.
- Use gentle skin care products that are unscented. Antibacterial or deodorant soaps and skin care products with fragrance, alcohol or retinoid can dry your skin.
- Apply cream or ointments: they work better than lotion. Look for ones that contain olive oil, jojoba oil, or shea butter. Lactic acid, urea, hyaluronic acid, mineral oil, glycerin and petrolatum are other ingredients that help relieve dry skin.
- Carry a hand cream with you. Apply it after you wash your hands.
- Use a non-irritating lip balm. Be sure to select one that does not cause your lips to tingle or sting.
- Be selective with laundry detergents. Use only those that are labeled “hypoallergenic”.
- Moisturize the air. Add a humidifier to add moisture to the dry air. Some home heating systems may have one built it.
- Always wear gloves. We lose heat (and moisture) through our hands. Be sure to always wear gloves when you go outdoors in the winter.
- Use sunscreen. Even in the winter, you should slather on sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 to any exposed skin. Sunscreen helps protect your skin from harmful UV rays that are present year-round.
See a dermatologist if your skin does not improve. Reduce your chance of developing an infection that may develop with cracking, bleeding skin.
Source(s): American Academy of Dermatology, Dermatologists’ top tips for relieving dry skin, retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/skin-care/dry-skin.
WebMD, Fighting Back Against Dry Skin, Fighting Dry Skin: Beat the Itch of Winter, retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/beauty/dry-skin-13/winter-dry-skin.
Web MD, Allergies Health Center, http://www.webmd.com/allergies/what-does-hypoallergenic-mean.
Author: Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences/EFNEP, Hamilton County.
Reviewer: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Franklin County.