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How can I protect my skin from dryness in the winter?

Answer by:
Susan Evans, MD

Dermatologist, WebMD Medical Expert
Skin Deformities and Research Foundation

During the fall and winter seasons, there is a decrease of humidity in the atmosphere. This decrease in humidity is usually what causes the skin on our bodies to become dry and rough.

The first step you can take toward healthy skin is to look at the body wash or bar you use in the shower. Avoid shower gels in the winter, as they can be drying to your skin. A body wash or bar that contains shea butter or jojoba oil will help to hydrate and nourish your skin while you are in the shower.

Shea butter nourishes the skin with vitamins A and E, and it also penetrates and moisturizes the skin without clogging pores.

Jojoba oil comes from the seed of the jojoba tree. This oil is similar to the oil or sebum our skin produces naturally. Jojoba oil can help to balance the oil in your skin and can also provide moisture all day.

Taking lukewarm showers instead of hot showers can also ward off dry skin. If you do not want to give up taking a hot shower, try to cut your shower time down. Long, hot showers tend to draw out the natural moisturizers in your skin. Avoiding long soaks in the hot tub is also a good idea because the chemicals and the hot water can dry out your skin.

After you shower, you should apply a moisturizer to replenish your skin. You can apply baby oil to your skin before drying off; this is one of the best ways for moisture to penetrate your skin. After you dry off, try using jojoba oil, shea butter, or cocoa butter; they work even better if they contain vitamins A and E.

Exfoliate the skin on your body once a week. Try to find a salt- or sugar-based scrub. While you are in the shower, apply the scrub all over your body. Next rinse the scrub off. This should help slough away any dry skin you have. Always follow up with a moisturizer after exfoliating your skin.

If you live in an area that has a dry atmosphere, such as the desert, a humidifier is a good investment for your home. The heat from the furnace can draw out the natural moisture and humidity in the air. A humidifier can help to add moisture back into the air in your home and also assist in warding off dry skin.

A well-balanced diet is also an important step for healthy skin. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially green vegetables. These foods will help to naturally nourish your skin. Including fish in your diet is also great for your skin because it is a natural source of omega fatty acids. The fatty acids can help to moisturize dry and scaly skin from the inside out.

One last tip: Limit your caffeine intake because it can also dehydrate the skin.