Your skin works to protect your body year round. But the cold, dry air of winter makes your skin have to work even harder. Help yourself out by using some of these tips and strategies during the winter months.
Your skin is one of your body’s main forms of defense against germs and external harm. Without care, dry, chapped skin can result in flakiness, itching, dry skin rash, winter eczema and cracking. Cracked skin compromises how well your skin can protect you, opening your body up to infection. If you have eczema or atopic dermatitis, the harsh winter air can be especially hard on your skin. Fortunately, there are many easy steps you can take to restore your skin’s health when it is affected by the winter air.
The first step you need to take is to restore moisture to your dried-out skin. Moisturizers can help fill in the gaps between the layered cells on your skin, attract more moisture to your skin and seal in existing-moisture. The best time to moisturize is after bathing or washing your hands, when you have patted your skin dry, but your skin is still damp. Applying a lotion or ointment after bathing helps trap moisture on the outer layer of your skin, further hydrating the skin. Make sure to use moisturizer every time after you wash your hands and before you go to bed. Your dermatologist may even recommend that you apply a bandage over the area you are treating, especially in cases of extremely dry skin that is cracked and peeling. The best kind of moisturizer for already dry skin is a thicker, oil-based cream. The Mayo Clinic recommends using a moisturizer that has lactic acid or urea in it. They also suggest using a product with vaseline in it, which does a better job of trapping moisture and reducing water loss from very dry skin.
If you are considering eczema lotion, choose a vaseline-based ointment, a heavy cream or oil. If you have acne-prone skin, don’t use a vaseline ointment on your face or other areas that tend to have break-outs. Instead, use a lightweight moisturizer that is water-based and labeled oil-free or non comedogenic. You may also want to use sunscreen instead of moisturizer if your skin is very oily.
The ways that you expose your skin to water can drastically affect the condition of your skin. While drinking water helps to hydrate your body, water that comes into contact with your skin can dry it out, especially hot water. Hot water and harsher soaps can remove your body’s natural oils, further drying out your skin. Use warm or cool water to bathe and wash your hands. Keep your showers and baths at ten minutes or less. Pat, don’t scrub, your skin dry. Make sure to use gentle soaps that are fragrance and dye-free. You may also want to use moisturizing soaps or cleansers that are soap-free. Limit your use of hand sanitizer, as that contains alcohol, which dries out skin.
What you wear in the winter can be an important way to protect your skin. First, if you are going outdoors, wear clothing that shields your skin from the cold, dry air, especially on areas that are prone to dry out, like your hands and face. Dress in layers so that you can remove a layer if you start to get sweaty. Sweat can further irritate already-chapped skin. Your layers should also be loose-fitting, with the layers that touch your dry skin being made from natural fibers, like cotton. Avoid scratchy materials like wool that can aggravate chapped skin. When washing your clothes, use fragrance free detergents and steer clear from fabric softeners.
You can combat the dry, winter air inside your home by using a humidifier. Also, avoid turning the thermostat in your home too high, as this can further dry out the air and can cause you to sweat, which irritates already chapped skin. Additionally, avoid scratching your skin. Your use of moisturizers can help to reduce itchiness. You can also apply an anti-itch cream to the itchy area and/or cover the dry patches with bandages or clothing to keep yourself from scratching and possibly opening up your skin to infection. Wearing gloves at night and keeping your nails trimmed can protect your skin from damage by scratching.
One of the best resources you can use for treating dry and irritated skin is a dermatologist. Set up an appointment with one of the experienced practitioners at Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area. They can work with you to create a treatment plan for your skin and can prescribe medications, if needed.