Your skin is your body's first line of defense against the elements. When sun, wind, and cold leave skin dry and itchy, don't hide it under long pants and gloves. Replenish it!
To get the kind of smooth, sleek skin you'll want to show off, learn these eight top causes of, and fixes for, dry skin.
1. Winter Weather
When the temperature drops, the humidity level plunges too. Dry air leaves skin parched. "Once the weather starts to change, I see patients coming in complaining of dry, itchy skin," says Linda Stein Gold, MD, clinical research director for the dermatology department at Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital.
Turning up the thermostat doesn't help, either. Indoor heating strips even more moisture from the air -- and your skin.
Quick Fix: Dial Up the Humidity
Install a humidifier in your home to keep air moist. Set humidity at a constant 45% to 55%, and the temperature at a balmy 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Before you go outside in wintry weather, create your own moisture barrier. Protect your most sensitive parts -- lips, face, and hands -- with a scarf and gloves.
2. Steamy Showers
Setting the shower to steamy soothes your body, but it won't do your skin any favors. "I know it feels wonderful to stand in a really hot shower... but it can dry out the natural oils in our skin more quickly," Stein Gold says.
Standing under that hot spray long enough to belt out your favorite tune is also a no-no. The longer you linger in the shower, the more you dry out your skin.
Quick Fix: Cleanse Coolly and Quickly
Dial down the shower temperature to lukewarm, and keep showers short. Five minutes is enough to get clean without over-drying. Save the singing for your car.
3. Moisture-Robbing Soaps
Don't put just any bar of soap into your shower dish -- they're not all the same. Wash with a harsh soap and you'll send your skin's natural moisture barrier straight down the drain.
Quick Fix: Go Mild
"We recommend using a mild, fragrance-free soap that moisturizes as it cleanses," Stein Gold says. Bar or liquid doesn't matter, but choose a soap that's specially formulated for dry skin.
4. The Rub-Down
Think you need to scrub your skin to get it clean? Toss that old notion, along with your scrubby sponge.
"Friction strips the skin and enhances the dryness," says Nanette Silverberg, MD, a dermatology professor at Columbia University.
Quick Fix: Go Soft
Use your hands or a soft washcloth instead, Silverberg suggests. They'll get you just as clean as abrasive sponges, without roughing up your skin.
5. Losing Shower Moisture
Showering bathes your skin in moisture. Scrubbing off with a towel right afterward strips that moisture away. "The surface of your skin absorbs some of the water, which will be lost if you don't seal it in," Silverberg says.