Winter-Proof Your Skin

Reviewed by Mohiba Tareen, MD on September 07, 2018
From the WebMD Archives
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When the seasons change, your skin may get flaky and itchy. It may even crack and bleed. What is it about winter and dry skin?

"Winter brings cold temperatures and less humidity," explains Deanne Robinson, MD, co-founder of Modern Dermatology of Connecticut. "These changes lead to water loss, resulting in dry and sometimes itchy skin. Indoor heat in the form of forced hot air or radiant heat produces very dry, hot air, which makes it worse."

Robinson suggests some tips and tricks to soothe winter dry skin.

Is it true that hot showers make dry skin worse?

Yes. Hot and long showers, especially in winter, strip the skin of natural oils, which leads to dryness. You can help prevent winter dry skin by taking shorter (less than 10 minutes) and cooler (less than 105 degrees F) showers -- and by moisturizing immediately after.

Which products are best for winter?

Try a heavier cream or ointment-based emollient, ideally one with ceramides. Ceramides are the skin's natural fatty acids, which rebuild and protect the skin barrier. Also, skip the soap. Traditional bar soap dries skin out by stripping the natural oils. Instead, opt for a non-soap cleanser, which is much gentler.

Why are my hands extra dry?

Hand-washing and alcohol-based sanitizers can trigger hand eczema. To treat it, moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Try a non-soap cleanser that's fragrance- and color-free. After every hand wash, apply a moisturizer. Try one with dimethicone, which coats your skin to create a glove-like barrier that protects against further damage. At night, apply a thick emollient, and then put on cotton gloves, which can help a whole lot.

How does winter affect psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition that may get better from natural UV radiation, or sunlight. Winter may flare your psoriasis because you get less exposure to the sun. Controlled exposure to the sun in winter can improve it.

4 Tips

Try these bonus tips from the American Academy of Dermatology. If your skin needs more relief, see a dermatologist.

  1. Pick the right lip balm. Use a soothing lip balm. If your balm doesn't feel good or makes your lips tingle, try a different one.
  2. Ban dry air. Plug in a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Skip cozying up to a fireplace or heat source.
  3. Wear gloves. Protect your hands from the elements. Wear gloves when you're outdoors, washing dishes, or touching chemicals or grease.
  4. Ditch irritating clothing. Use gentle laundry detergent labeled "hypoallergenic." Wear cotton or silk under wool or other rough materials.

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Show Sources


Deanne Robinson, MD, dermatologist.

American Academy of Dermatology: “Dermatologists' top tips for relieving dry skin.”

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