Winter Dry Skin: Experts' Answers

Our experts offer top tips and product picks for winter-proofing parched skin.

Medically Reviewed by Karyn Grossman, MD on October 10, 2011
3 min read

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 bring moisture into heated homes.

Beyond that, one of the most important things you can do in the winter is use a nondrying wash like Dove Visible Care Renewing Crème Body Wash, and shorten your shower to three minutes max or bathe in lukewarm water.

Next, apply body lotion -- try Aveeno Active Naturals Daily Moisturizing Lotion -- immediately after showering or bathing while the skin is still damp. This helps lock in moisture and boost reabsorption. If you’re eczema-prone in the winter, seek out thicker creams or ointments -- those like Aquaphor Healing Ointment for lips are more moisturizing than creams like L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream, which are more moisturizing than lotions. Choose the richest formula your skin can tolerate, and apply it to your body religiously to maintain a healthy skin barrier.

Top Picks From Miami Cosmetic Dermatologist Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD: 

Cold wind and reduced humidity can lead to dehydrated skin, which shows up as flaking and itching. Not switching up your products throughout the year can further irritate your skin.

To combat dryness on your face, use a soap like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which has fewer potent surfactants (detergents and foaming agents that can strip skin of its moisture)andmore replenishing emollients. You may want to ease up on exfoliating face cleansers and toners. These are often too rough for the skin in the winter so aim for something gentler and look for ingredients like jojoba beads on the label.

Consider adding a nightly cream or lotion to the mix to replenish hydration and reduce irritation while you sleep. For day, stock up on hydrating creams and lotions that contain moisture-locking ingredients such as ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid, and use every day. Try Eucerin Q10 Anti-Wrinkle Sensitive Skin Creme. No matter what, it’s best to apply face and body moisturizer twice a day during the winter -- in the morning after showering and before bed.

People with sensitive, dry, or rosacea-prone skin are already predisposed to more irritation during winter months. They can benefit from products that are ultra-moisturizing and chemical-free and contain a healthy dose of natural anti-inflammatory ingredients. A good choice is Burt’s Bees Soap Bark & Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream.

If you have oily or combination skin and often get clogged pores and acne breakouts, it’s best to use light moisturizers throughout the year that are noncomedogenic, like Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer SPF 50. They provide moisture without causing clogged pores that can lead to pimples.

The opinions expressed in this section are of the experts and are not the opinions of WebMD. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.