Q: I have very dry skin in the winter. I get cuts and scratch marks on my legs because they itch so much. What can I do?
Top Picks From Los Angeles Dermatologist Emma Taylor, MD:
Heaters and prolonged hot showers are the biggest culprits when it comes to dry skin. Both can deplete the skin of its natural moisture, even more than cold temperatures. And no matter how much water you drink, it probably won’t be enough to rehydrate your skin. For starters, invest in a humidifier, which helps...
Long, steamy showers may soothe a weekend warrior's sore muscles, but they're also good at dehydrating you - yes, taking moisture out instead of putting it in. That's because hot water removes the skin's natural oils more quickly than warm or cold water.
The skin care solution? Take shorter showers and baths and use warm water instead of steamy hot. Then, when you're done, pat dry, don't rub.
Winter Skin Care Tip 2: Mild Soaps
Your favorite antibacterial or deodorant soap may be doing you more harm than good, stripping your skin of essential oils. That's why skin care pros recommend sticking with mild soaps, preferably unscented or lightly scented.
You may want to go mild with your laundry detergent, too. Designed to remove dirt and oils, residue just may irritate sensitive, chapped skin.
Winter Skin Care Tip 3: Moisturize
A great way to soothe or prevent chapped skin: moisturize. And you don't need expensive elixirs from the cosmetics counter to keep skin dewy.
Petroleum jelly, mineral oil, even hair conditioner can help you trap in moisture as you step from the shower or bath. If your skin is oily you still need to moisturize -- just look for noncomedogenic products, which won't clog your pores. And remember to drink up -- moisturizing from the inside out.
Winter Skin Care Tip 4: Get Sharp About Shaving
Shaving can leave your skin extra irritated, especially when it's already dry. So get sharp about shaving by:
Use a lubricant when you shave, such as shaving cream.
Change the blades in your shaver often.
Shave in the direction that hair grows.
Winter Skin Care Tip 5: Slather on Sunscreen
Up to 80% of the sun's rays can penetrate light clouds, snow, and fog. Over time that exposure can lead to moles, wrinkles, and skin cancers.
So protect your skin: Even on cloudy or overcast days slap on that sunscreen. Reach for a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, with UVA and UVB protection. And don't forget to reapply often.
Winter Skin Care Tip 6: Soothing Chapped Lips
Lips don't have oil glands, so they can dry out especially easily. Give your lips the love they need with these suggestions from the American Academy of Dermatology:
Don't lick. The cycle of wetting and drying that occurs when you lick your lips quickly causes them to chap.
Cover up. On cold or windy days protect your kisser behind a scarf.
Boost moisture. Keep the air in your house moist with a humidifier.
Lip balm. Sun exposure can make chapped lips even worse, so spread on plenty of lip balm with a sunscreen of SPF 15 or more in it.
These quick skin care tips should help keep your skin happy all winter long. But if you find you still have dry skin, or your skin gets worse, give a dermatologist a call.
SOURCES: Cleveland Clinic Foundation: "Skin Smart: Don't Let Winter Get Under Your Skin." American Academy of Dermatology: "Lip Fact Sheet," "Fast Skin Facts,""Dry Skin and Keratosis Pilaris," Dermatology Insights, Fall 2000; vol: 1, pp 20-21.WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic: "Skin Conditions: Taking Care of Your Skin."