It’s known as the most wonderful time of year: Our senses are piqued by falling snowflakes, holiday shopping 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 advisor 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.
As temperatures fall in December and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. The U.S. board-certified dermatologists of Teladoc 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!
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