Ensuring proper skin care can be challenging even under the best of circumstances. But in the winter months, when the weather turns cold and humidity drops, keeping your skin hydrated becomes even more difficult. Fortunately, you don't have to surrender to the weather. By taking some extra care to keep your skin moisturised as the days grow chilly, you can avoid common hallmarks of the season, like chapping and itching.
What causes dry skin?
Dryness results when there's not enough water in the outermost layer of the skin for it to function properly. Without the skin's protective oils present, moisture escapes from the skin. This effect can intensify during the winter, when environmental humidity is low. According to the University of Iowa (UI) Hospitals and Clinics, the following are other causes of dry skin:
- Overuse of soapy water
- Exposure to harsh chemicals
- The aging process
- Certain types of skin diseases
What's wrong with dry skin?
If dry skin goes hand-in-hand with winter, what's the big deal? Dry skin is associated with several health problems that can interfere with your daily activities--even your sleep. Dry skin may lead to:
- Areas of thickened, rough skin
- Painful cracks in the skin
- Red, inflamed, scaly skin (dermatitis)
- Round, scaly, itchy red patches on the skin (a form of eczema)
- Bacterial infection
How can you treat dry skin?
The first step in treating dry skin is to identify contributing factors. While winter weather may be one cause, if your dry skin is severe, you may want to talk to your doctor about other possible underlying issues. The following strategies can help you manage your dry skin:
Moderate hot water usage.
When your skin is dry, it may seem natural to rehydrate it by applying water. However, water can actually exacerbate dry skin--especially if it's hot soapy water. To avoid potential problems, keep baths and showers short (under 10 minutes) and warm rather than hot. Longer, hotter soaks will increase the loss of natural oils from the skin and worsen dryness.
Use minimal soap.
Since soap can increase dryness, use it sparingly only when and where needed (such as under your arms, in your groin area, and on your feet). Where possible, use mild, less drying soaps.
Skin moisturisers are an important weapon in your arsenal to fight dry skin. The right moisturisers can aid long-term control of dry skin and promote prevention. As winter encroaches and you notice your skin beginning to get dry, consider implementing a moisturising routine. There are four basic types of body moisturisers that can help aid your efforts, which are all available without prescription:
- Ointment moisturisers. These have the greatest ability to trap moisture in the skin, but can feel greasy. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly is an example of this type of moisturiser.
- Oil moisturisers. These are less greasy and are still effective at fighting dry skin. Examples include baby oil, mineral oil, and bath oil.
- Cream moisturisers. Cream moisturisers tend to be more popular than ointments or oils because they're absorbed into the skin more easily. Examples include, Neutrogena Hand Cream.
- Lotion moisturisers. These moisturisers are generally the least greasy and most pleasant to use. However, they can be more drying than the other types because of their higher alcohol content.