As many of us already know, the dry air of winter wreaks havoc on our bodies. It causes seasonal nosebleeds, sore throats, chapped lips, and -- perhaps most prevalent of all -- winter dry skin. Between dealing with the biting, cold air outdoors and the heated, low-humidity atmosphere indoors, our skin has trouble maintaining moisture. Because the related discomfort can contribute to a case of the winter blues, it's worth investigating how seasonal dry skin occurs and what you can do to fight back.
How Does Winter Dry Skin Occur?
The main problem with winter is that the dry air removes the thin coating of oil that our skin produces to trap moisture in the epidermis, the top layer of skin. Without that protection, tiny cracks form, which can cause peeling, itching, and scaling, and lead to irritation and inflammation. If you already have sensitive skin, or a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis, the lack of moisture can cause flare-ups and severe discomfort.
The Power of Moisturizing
Now for the good news: There are ways to fight back against winter dryness. The single best thing you can do for dry skin is to moisturize it frequently, using quality, unscented products that don't contain alcohol, dyes, or artificial ingredients. Look for moisturizers that use petroleum jelly and beeswax, which help to replace the oil barrier on your skin, seal in moisture, and sooth cracks and irritation. To get the most out of your moisturizer, try these tips:
- Have a daily moisturizing routine. Make sure you are periodically moisturizing throughout the day. Set a flexible schedule to help keep you from forgetting and maintain it year-round, adjusting for the weather as needed.
- Moisturize after bathing. The best time to moisturize is right after you bathe, because it seals in all that water your skin has absorbed and prevents dryness caused by evaporation. You should also moisturize after washing your hands for the same reason.
- Carry moisturizer wherever you go. Always bring your moisturizer with you, whether in a handbag, backpack, or briefcase. Varying temperatures and conditions can dry out your skin, so it's good to be prepared!
- Treat problem areas first. Apply moisturizer frequently and thoroughly to your major dry skin areas. If you can, wrap these areas in plastic wrap for thirty minutes to an hour directly after moisturizing to really give your skin a chance to lock it in.
- Wear therapeutic gloves at night. If dry hands are your issue, try putting your moisturizer on before bed and wearing gloves to seal in the moisture. You can find therapeutic gloves at most convenience stores.
Other Helpful Tips for Fighting Winter Dryness
Aside from applying moisturizers, there are other things you can do to help prevent winter dry skin and other discomforts:
- Change your bathing habits. Take shorter baths or showers, and use lukewarm water rather than hot. Hot water can damage the skin and make everything worse. Pat yourself dry afterward to avoid overdrying or damaging your skin.
- Use gentle, moisture-rich soap. There are many soaps on the market made for sensitive skin. For best results, look for ones that are scentless and contain glycerin.
- Purchase a humidifier. Putting some moisture back into the air is a great way to support your skin's recovery. It can also help with nosebleeds and sore throats caused by dry air.
- Wear comfortable clothes. Soft fabrics that breathe, such as cotton, are much kinder on your skin. Wearing loose clothing can help prevent chafing and sweating, which may cause irritation.
It only takes a few adjustments to your cleanliness routine (and perhaps some small bathing-related purchases) to ensure a more comfortable winter -- and entire year, if you make weather-based changes that work for you.