Oh, that dry, winter skin! Winter means beautiful white snow, warm woolly sweaters, cozy fires in the fireplace, and of course, dry, itchy skin. It seems that the dry air in our heating systems and the cold temperatures outside suck the moisture right out of our skin. Even those of us who normally have oily skin can find ourselves feeling dry and uncomfortable in the winter time. But there are a few steps we can take to improve our skin's condition and have smooth, soft skin all winter long. Here are a few of my favorite winter skin care tips.
Take shorter, cooler showers. After being outside in the cold, I love getting warmed up with a really hot shower. But long, hot showers are counter-productive when the weather is cold, leaving your skin dry and uncomfortable. Instead, take shorter, cooler showers and give your skin a break. Gently blot dry with a towel; don't scrub or you may irritate already sensitive skin.
Moisturize. I find my moisturizer is more effective if I apply it right after my shower. Use a moisturizer that is gentle, fragrance free, alcohol free, and dye free. Additives such as fragrance and dyes can irritate your skin, making it more itchy and dry. Lotions targeted for baby eczema are great for adults (even adults without eczema) and absorb quickly and easily. They are gentle on the skin and usually smell nice, too.
Moisturize some more. Keep your moisturizer handy so you can reapply it often. Anytime you start to feel itchy, just slather it on. Make a special point to moisturize right before you go to bed.
Avoid alcohol. Alcohol in any form is drying to the body. I find that if my skin is very dry and uncomfortable, it's best to avoid drinking alcohol since it works to remove moisture from the body. Limit your use of hand sanitizers, which are mostly made of alcohol and can cause excessive dryness and chapping. It also helps to avoid any body or face products that contain alcohol. Look for products labeled, "Alcohol free."
Drink up. If you need a drink, stick to plain old water. I find that my winter skin is less painful when I've been drinking the right amount of water and not so many coffees, teas, or sodas. Avoid caffeine as much as possible, as caffeine is a diuretic and will pull water from the body.
Sleep in socks and gloves. If your hands and feet are particularly dry, like mine, sleep in cotton socks and gloves. Just be sure to lather on the lotion before putting on your socks and gloves and climbing into bed.
Dry your hands thoroughly. I am always in such a hurry, and I wash my hands so frequently that sometimes I forget to take the time to dry them completely. Damp hands in cold, dry air leads to dry, chapped skin. My hands feel better when I take the time to make sure they are completely dry.
Humidify. The dry air in our homes is partially to blame for all this dry, itchy skin. Set up your humidifier to put moisture back in the air and see if that doesn't ease your symptoms or fix the problem altogether.
When in doubt, moisturize, stay hydrated, and avoid alcohol. If you have any questions or concerns, or if the dryness is extreme and interfering with daily life, make sure to see your doctor or dermatologist right away.