A common problem in the winter is that your skin becomes dry, flaky, itchy, and it can really be difficult to make your skin feel normal. All the fluctuations with heat, feeling cold, warm showers, etc. make your skin worse, but the good news is that there are some pretty simple tips to help keep your skin moist and healthy….so you can live itch free this winter!
Why is dry skin an issue?
When you have dry skin the fine lines that you can’t normally see become apparent, and the skin also feels rough, and can appear flaky. Medically, it is known as xerosis. Now, even though you might think this is a purely visual issue, its not. Dry skin can actually cause some major issues, like infections from the cracked skin just being open to the elements, or from bacteria under your fingernails getting embedded into the skin and cracks from scratching when it gets itchy. There can be large open sores, bacteria in the form of pus, and it can interfere with sleeping, and every day activities….not to mention it can make you feel like everyone is staring at your skin issues (even if they aren’t).
Signs of dry skin?
appearance of fine lines
cracks in skin
itchy areas (that can crack and bleed)
What causes it?
Weather: when humidity is low along with temperatures, the moisture gets zapped from our skin
Heat: Central air, wood burning stoves, & space heaters all dry out the air
Hot Showers: despite then feeling really good and warming you up, hot showers deplete your skin of important lipids (fats) that help to keep them moist
Sun Exposure: excessive UV exposure (like sun burns) will also dry out your skin.
What can we do to treat it?
The good news is that most of the treatments are home remedies that are not expensive. Yay! Avoiding long hot shower is one place to start, try to keep the water warm, but not super hot, and finish your shower with a thick moisturizer. I use the standard Palmers Cocoa Butter in the winter, and it keeps my skin moist, but I know some friends that use thicker creams such as Eucerin which is full of emollients and fats. I must say Palmers also created a line of skin care for dry winter skin, it is too heavy for my skin, but if you like using cocoa butter, that line might be for you. But in general, you want to look for a cream that is thick (not thin and watery) and is in general free of dyes and scents. Also, some people will apply baby oil to their skin right after showering to add moisture, I just urge you to be careful because that can get slippery!! Use gentle soaps, that are made for the face, and are labelled as gentle with moisturizers added. Use a humidifier in your home to offset the drying heaters, and allow some moisture in the air that can help your skin. And, try to wear natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, etc because they are soft and less irritating to your skin than other man-made fibers. And, finally, if your skin is super itchy, you can apply cool compresses to try to take the itch out of the area (as opposed to scratching) and applying an OTC hydrocortisone cream (1%) can help to stop the itching. If it doesn’t you can talk to your HCP about getting a prescription cream to prevent the itching. Also, if the scratches or cracks in your skin are painful ,red, or oozing you should see an HCP to treat a possible bacterial infection (usually a topical cream can be used).
So, keep those showers short, slap on that cream, and talk to your HCP if you continue to have trouble with dry skin, they may be able to write you for a prescription treatment.
Yours in Good Health!