Suffering from itchy, irritated skin in these cold winter months? Read on for our simple steps on how to prevent and relieve dry winter skin.
Winter is upon us once more wreaking havoc on our skin. Red rough hands, itchy irritated skin and chapped lips are just some of the signs of dehydrated winter skin. This is due to the low humidity indoors and outdoors preventing the skin from retaining sufficient moisture.
But it doesn’t have to be this way as there are many simple steps you can take to make sure you have soft supple skin throughout the season.
What exactly causes the skin to dry?
The skin has three layers which have their own roles to play. The lowest layer is made of subcutaneous fat, which is used for storing energy, and provides insulation and shock absorption. The middle layer is called the dermis and it contains nerves, sweat and oil glands, hair follicles and blood vessels. The top layer is known as the epidermis which forms a protective barrier against pathogens, harmful substances, environmental pollutants and prevents the skin from losing moisture.
Excessive washing, harsh toners, cleansers, exfoliants and having prolonged showers with hot water can all strip the skin of it’s natural oils. Add to that blustery conditions outside, heaters absorbing all the moisture from the air and from your skin inside it’s no wonder the skin needs extra help to get it through the winter months.
Helping your skin retain moisture
The first step to combating dry skin is to use a moisturizer specially designed to lock in moisture. Humectants (attract moisture) such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, ceramides and lecithin are the ingredients you should look out for when shopping for your winter skincare products. The thicker and greasier your moisturizer the better because you are looking for a good strong barrier to protect against the elements.
Petroleum jelly is a good cheap alternative to more high-end pricier serums and moisturizers. But as it contains no water it is best to apply it to damp skin to seal in the moisture.
Don’t forget to moisturize lips and hands treating them the same as your facial skin.
Other tips to prevent and relieve dry winter skin.
- Limit shower / Bath time
Bathing or showering for a prolonged time in hot water can strip your skin of it’s natural oils so limit yourself to 1 bath or shower for a maximum of 10 minutes per day. Also lower the temperature to lukewarm.
- Steer clear of harsh cleansers
Alcohol based cleansers, perfumes soaps and some exfoliants can further dry and irritate your skin so avoid using them. Look for gentle fragrance free moisturizing washes to cleanse your skin with. Dove, Olay, Cetaphil, and Oilatum are a few products to look out for.
- Be gentle on your skin
Try not to use washcloths or brush scrubs to wash your skin as these can also strip natural oils from the skin. Use a soft sponge instead. Pat your skin dry with a towel and moisturize immediately to avoid losing any moisture.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen
The sun’s harmful UV rays can still permeate through the winter grey clouds and cause damage so make sure to apply a moisturizing sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher to all exposed skin.
- Use a humidifier
Heating can dry the atmosphere inside the home so using a humidifier will help to replenish lost moisture.
- Stay Hydrated
Drinking plenty of water isn’t just for the hot summer months. Though you may not feel as thirsty you still need to drink enough as it helps to hydrate your skin and your body. Taking omega-3 and omega-6 enriched supplements such as fish oil and flaxseed oil may also help combat skin dryness.
For more tips on how to keep your skin hydrated check the Harvard Health Publishing guide to preventing your skin from drying out this winter.
If after taking these simple steps to relieve any dry skin doesn’t work then use an over the counter 1% hydrocortisone cream for a few days.
If your skin still doesn’t improve then seek professional help. It may be that you need a prescription-strength cream to help you get through the winter.