by Fayne Frey, Board Certified Dermatologist
I hate my winter dry skin.
When the weather is cold and the air is dry, I find flakes of skin all over the place. They’re on my sheets, attached to the inside of my clothes, on the floor. And the drier the air, the drier my skin. It’s itchy, unsightly and annoying. I can completely relate to complaints I hear from patients at this time of year.
Healthy skin requires adequate hydration. Fortunately, skin hydrates itself, but this system is not perfect. During the winter months, skin loses more water into the environment as compared to hot and humid days. Here’s my advice to keep your skin hydrated and healthy during the cold weather.
Winter Skincare Recommendations
Moisturize more frequently
I encourage 3-5 applications per day to help keep skin hydrated, especially after a shower or bath. Moisturizers come as creams, lotions and ointments. Petrolatum based ointments tend to limit the evaporation of water from the skin best and are therefore may be more effective than other types of moisturizers when the air is cold and dry.
For particularly dry skin and problem areas such as elbows and knees, I recommend moisturizers containing urea and/or lactic acid. These ingredients draw moisture into the skin. Use with caution though when applying to irritated, cracked, or inflamed skin as these products may cause stinging or burning
Keep your showers brief
Use lukewarm water and don’t dawdle. Long hot showers strip skin of its natural lipids and proteins that help maintain adequate hydration.
Use mild soap free cleanser
A gentle cleanser helps minimize the loss of skin’s own moisturizing proteins and lipids.
Apply petroleum based lip balm
Your lips are almost always exposed to the weather, so take good care of them in the winter. Use lip balm daily, both in the morning and at night, to help keep them smooth and prevent chapping.
Apply hand cream regularly
It’s a good idea to moisturize your hands after each wash. Also, keep in mind that room temperature water is gentler on the skin than hot. Be especially diligent if you have cracked fingers. Your regular body moisturizer is fine for your hands, or you can use an over-the-counter hand cream, many of which contain petrolatum and have a thicker consistency to encourage healthy moisture barrier function.
Wear hats, gloves and scarves to help prevent dry skin and chapped lips to limit your exposure to dry cold winter air.
Increase moisture levels in your home
A humidifier helps keep skin moist. If you use one, humidity levels between 30%-50% are ideal.
The bottom line
Your skin health is important. We all look and feel better when our skin is well hydrated. Why suffer through the winter with flakes and itchy skin if you don’t have to?
Note: If dry skin is severe or persists for an extended period of time, see a dermatologist to rule out any underlying medical cause of dry skin like eczema, psoriasis or other inflammatory process.
Fayne Frey, M.D., is a board-certified clinical and surgical dermatologist practicing in West Nyack, New York, where she specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. She is a nationally recognized expert in the effectiveness and formulation of over-the-counter skincare products, and, as a speaker, has captivated audiences with her wry observations regarding the skincare industry. She has consulted for numerous media outlets, including NBC, USA Today, and, the Huffington Post, and has shared her expertise on both cable and major TV outlets. Dr. Frey is the Founder of FryFace.com, an educational skincare information and product selection service website that clarifies and simplifies the overwhelming choice of effective, safe and affordable products encountered in the skincare aisles. Dr. Frey is a fellow of both the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.