Five must-knows for weathering winter skin

November 19, 2019

It’s the most wonderful time of year: Our senses are piqued by falling snowflakes, the holiday shopping hustle and bustle, and hot chocolate by the fire. But for many of us, dry, itchy skin overpowers the enjoyment of winter wonder, leading to irritation, painful cracks in the skin, or discomfort.

“Skin problems are common in the winter for one main reason: dry air,” explains Dr. Jeffrey Zwerner, senior medical director of dermatology at Teladoc.

While wintertime dry skin usually isn’t serious, the loss of moisture from the skin can bring any snow bunny plenty of frustration and distress. As the cold weather ramps up—and persists into next year—check out our five expert “must-knows” to discover a healthy, happy winter skin routine.

1. Dry air is difficult

As temperatures fall in December, so do humidity levels. The vapor in the air that kept us moist and sweaty all summer long quickly vanishes with the cold winds of winter.

“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 because of that,” explains Dr. Zwerner.

On top of the harsh reality of the great outdoors, indoor heat is typically very drying to the skin, often resulting in roughness, itching, irritation, and even burning. It’s a good idea to use a humidifier to replenish moisture in the skin, especially in the bedroom where you sleep.

2. Switching for 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. Different seasons require different skin care products.

“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 for a better spread.

3. Bathers, beware!

Let’s back up from post-cleansing routines: It’s time to talk about showers and baths. When the weather is freezing, nothing feels better than a sudsy, steamy dunk in hot water. But you should actually use lukewarm water instead, Dr. Zwerner says. Long, hot showers or soaks can be incredibly drying to the skin, so limit bathing to five or 10 minutes.

You should also 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. Make sure you also wash clothing, towels, and sheets in fragrance-free detergent.

4. Avoiding the itchy scratches

It always feels good to scratch an itch, but rubbing or clawing at dry, winter skin can kick off a vicious cycle of itching and irritation. Calming the area with a cool cloth or moisturizing cream can bring a more lasting feeling of relief.

It’s also helpful to avoid prickly materials in clothing like wool, and abrasive shower scrubbers like loofahs, brushes, or rough washcloths. Instead, lather soap gently with the smooth tips of your fingers.

5. Get help when you need it

If maintaining calm, smooth skin becomes out of reach this winter, don’t shy away from asking for help. If your skin is so itchy or painful it’s keeping you awake, or is prone to bleeding or infection, it’s time to get professional help. Teladoc’s U.S. board-certified dermatologists can work with you to keep your skin healthy and moisturized—even with conditions like eczema—and offer advice and even prescription creams, if needed.

Reach out to Teladoc online or by app, and we’ll provide expert skincare advice from a licensed dermatologist within two business days. You can even upload photos of your skin so we can customize your treatment plan. We’ll help you manage with moisture for a true farewell to winter woes!

This portion of the Teladoc website occasionally offers health, fitness, and nutritional information and is provided for educational purposes only. You cannot rely on any information provided here as a substitute for or replacement of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Teladoc cannot assure that the information contained on this site always includes the most recent findings or developments with respect to the particular subject matter covered.

If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid, or delay obtaining medical or health-related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your healthcare professional, or 911, immediately.