Best Practices for Preventing Dry Winter Skin
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Best Practices for Preventing Dry Winter Skin

In the same way that you need to change out your wardrobe for colder temperatures, you should also change your daily skin care routine when winter arrives.

Thanks to dry indoor heat, low humidity levels, harsh winter winds and sub-zero temperatures, the moisture in your skin can quickly evaporate, leaving you with dry skin.

Symptoms of dry skin vary from person to person based on age, skin tone, sun exposure, and overall health. Common signs of dry skin include:

- A rough appearance or feeling to the touch

- Peeling, scaling, or flaking skin

- Itching

- Raw, red, or irritated skin

- Dull or even ashy-gray skin

- Fine lines and cracks on the surface of the skin

If you are prone to eczema, dry skin may trigger the condition, leading to severe cracking and even bleeding.

While there’s not much we can do about plummeting temperatures, there are steps you can take to keep your skin looking healthy throughout the winter months.

1. Moisturize. Moisturizer seals in water to help keep your skin's protective barrier healthy. Use moisturizer throughout the day, especially after you wash your face, hands, or body, which strips your skin of its natural oils.

2. Wear sunscreen. Whenever you venture outdoors, use a moisturizer that contains sunblock or a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Be sure to reapply every two hours — or more often if you're sweating from skiing, snowboarding, etc.

3. Switch to winter-friendly cleansers and moisturizers. Choose products with ingredients that help your skin retain moisture. Avoid products that contain alcohol or fragrance which can dry out skin. Instead, opt for gentle or moisturizing products. Thicker formulations—think creams or balms—typically pack more moisture than lotions. Another option is Hyaluronic acid. Relatively new to the market, Hyaluronic acid absorbs 1,000 times its weight in water and is now found in both face and body products. Other solid ingredient options for beating dry skin are glycerin, lanolin, mineral oil, petrolatum, and shea butter.

4. Moisturize at night. Overnight treatments for the hands, face and even feet are a great way to prevent or rejuvenate dry skin. Often made with a heavy cream formulation, overnight treatments replenish moisture lost and, in some cases, stimulate cell regeneration.  

5. Use a humidifier. According to Harvard Health Publishing, a humidifier setting of 60 percent in winter can replenish moisture in the top layer of your skin. Running a humidifier in the room where you spend the most time can naturally help minimize moisture loss from your skin.

6. Take shorter showers. As appealing as a hot shower may be on a cold morning, they can be incredibly drying to the skin. Aim to keep showers less than 10 minutes long and keep the water temperature at warm, not hot

7. Cover as much skin as possible in cold or windy weather. Harsh weather can be especially drying to skin. When heading out, be sure to cover up with scarves, hats, and gloves or mittens to protect your skin.

8. Take vitamin D supplements. According to some studies, taking vitamin D supplements can help with inflammation and irritation of the skin at any time of the year but is especially helpful during the winter for anyone who has eczema or psoriasis.

If painful dry skin is keeping you from enjoying normal activities during the winter months, contact your doctor. They may be able to point you to products and other treatments that can help.


Lixia Ellis, MD, PhD is dermatologist at SVMC Dermatology.


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