It’s cold, dry, and windy in a winter wonderland. Snow bunnies and hibernators alike usually respond in the same way: crank up the heat inside, and get warm in hot showers or in front of a cozy fire. Unfortunately, this combination can damage the skin you’re in.
“In fighting the freeze, we tend to crank up the heat indoors and treat ourselves to steamy showers. But this triple threat can wreak havoc on our skin, causing excessive dryness,” says Dr. Jeffrey Zwerner, Senior Medical Director of Dermatology at Teladoc Health.
As the humidity goes down, even people with otherwise healthy skin can suffer from itching, redness, flakiness, or cracking. No matter your age or stage, follow these three tips for smooth, glowing skin all year long.
1. Follow a strict shower schedule
What’s not to love about luxuriating in a long, hot shower where it’s quiet, warm, and peaceful? While a bathing ritual can be very stimulating for the senses, if you indulge too much—longer than 15 minutes or more than once a day—you’ll take away your skin’s natural oils and cause dryness.1
Try to limit your shower or bath time to five or 10 minutes, and use lukewarm instead of hot water. Don’t scrub your skin too hard while cleaning it, and blot or pat the skin dry afterward with a soft towel. Use a gentle cleanser in moderation, only using deodorant soap in certain areas like the armpits, groin, feet, and face.2
2. Just add moisture
Right after a bath or shower, while the skin is still damp, apply a moisturizer to the skin to seal in the water and protect it. You can also apply a moisturizer throughout the day in especially dry areas such as the hands, which are prone to cracking. Ointments, creams, and lotions have various levels of greasiness, and different areas of the body may have specific needs for hydration. Talk with a dermatologist about what type of moisturizer may be best for you.
Dry, itchy skin can also benefit from moisture in the air. Hot air that blasts from a heating system 24 hours a day can cause skin irritation. Adding a humidifier to your central heating system or smaller, cool mist ones throughout the home and office will keep your skin from drying out. And don’t forget those lips! A healing and moisturizing lip balm keeps lips hydrated and smooth.
3. Stay away from irritants
Another inviting part of bathing and showering is slathering on scented body washes. These fragrance-filled bath products and other harsh, deodorant soaps can be full of chemicals that dry and irritate the skin. Instead, use gentle, unscented, alcohol-free skin care products.
Along the same lines, look for unscented “free” laundry detergents and dryer sheets for washing clothes, sheets, and towels. If your skin is sensitive and dry, even detergents on contact items can be irritating. Pay attention to what materials feel softest against your skin. Sometimes, winter’s warmest fabrics—like wool—can inflame the skin, causing it to itch. Wear base layers or stick with flannels and waffle-knit cottons for warmth.
4. Seeking professional advice
If dry, red, itchy skin persists this winter, consider speaking with a dermatologist. Over-the-counter moisturizers and anti-inflammatory creams could contain chemicals that make your skin worse or could even cause an allergic reaction. Your symptoms may instead require a prescription for relief or other treatment strategies.
Skin, the human body’s largest organ, is an important barrier of protection. If you’re having trouble this winter, download our app or sign in now to request a visit with one of our U.S. board-certified dermatologists. Our physicians can assess your skin’s condition and recommend a personalized care regimen that will see you through spring—right from the comfort of your home, any time you need us!
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