Winter is known as the most wonderful time of year. But for many of us, dry, itchy skin can overpower the joy of the season. While wintertime skin irritation usually isn’t serious, it can be annoying and frustrating to deal with. Check out our five expert must-knows to soothe your skin this season.
1. Be aware of dry air
“Skin problems are common in the winter for one main reason: dry air,” says Jeffrey Zwerner, MD, Senior Medical Advisor for Dermatology at Teladoc.
As temperatures fall in December, so do humidity levels. The vapor in the air that kept us moist and sweaty all summer quickly vanishes with windy winter weather.
“It’s very common this time of year basically everywhere in the U.S. When the humidity drops, there’s less moisture in the air and people’s skin gets dry,” says Dr. Zwerner.
On top of the harsh reality of the great outdoors, indoor heat typically dries out skin. This can result in roughness, itching, irritation and even burning. It’s a good idea to use a humidifier in your bedroom at night to replenish moisture in the skin.
2. Bathe responsibly
Nothing feels better than a hot shower or bath when there’s a chill in the air. Dr. Zwerner recommends these bathing tips:
- Limit showers and baths to five or 10 minutes. Long, hot showers or soaks can be incredibly drying to the skin. If you want to go longer, use lukewarm water instead.
- Use non-fragrant, gentle cleansers in moderation. Stronger soaps with deodorant or perfume can strip the skin of oil, causing it to become irritated and itchy.
- Wash clothing, towels and sheets in fragrance-free detergent.
3. Switch up your routine with the seasons
Summertime skin has different needs than wintertime skin. As the weather turns cold, you probably aren’t thinking about a dry skin regimen because you haven’t needed it for months. But you should be.
“While you may have used lotions in the spring and summer, now you need to switch to heavier creams or ointment-based moisturizers,” Dr. Zwerner says. “Otherwise, you’ll have problems because of the change in humidity.”
Apply these thicker products after showers or baths while the skin is still damp.
4. Avoid the itch
It always feels good to scratch an itch. Rubbing or clawing at dry, winter skin can kick off a vicious cycle of itching and irritation though. Calm the area with a cool cloth or moisturizing cream for more lasting relief.
It’s also helpful to avoid prickly clothing materials like wool and abrasive shower scrubbers like loofahs, brushes or rough washcloths. Instead, wear a layer of cotton or silk under your favorite winter sweater, and lather soap gently with the smooth tips of your fingers.
5. Get help when you need it
If maintaining calm skin becomes out of reach this winter, don’t shy away from asking for help. Get professional help especially if your skin is so itchy or painful it’s keeping you awake, or is prone to bleeding or infection.
Our U.S. board-certified dermatologists can work with you to keep your skin healthy and moisturized—even with conditions like eczema. They can offer advice and prescription creams if needed.
Check out more of our experts’ tips on relieving dry skin.
Updated November 12, 2021