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Have you ever noticed how your skin responds to the changing seasons? If so, you’ve likely noticed that your skin often seems to get drier and flakier in colder winter months.
Cold air, dry indoor heat, low humidity levels, and harsh winter wind can all zap your skin of moisture. This can leave your skin looking a lot less radiant than normal — not only your face, but also your hands, feet, and other areas exposed to the elements.
There are steps you can take to keep your skin looking healthy, even when temperatures dip and there’s no escape from winter’s dry, cold air.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of dry skin include:
- flakiness or scaliness
- rough texture
- raw, irritated skin
- cracks in your skin
- stinging or burning
The medical term for dry skin is xerosis. Symptoms can range in severity and look different depending on the area of your body that’s affected.
Dry winter skin isn’t inevitable. By making some changes to your skin care regimen and habits, and using the right products, you may be able to keep your skin looking soft, smooth, and vibrant all winter long.
Let’s take a closer look at 11 tips that may help you boost the health of your skin during the colder months of the year.
1. Moisturize right after washing
Any time you wash your face, hands, or body, you strip your skin of its natural oils. Since these oils help to lock in moisture, it’s vital to replace them. That’s why it’s important to use a moisturizer any time you wash your skin, especially in winter.
As a helpful reminder, try stocking a bottle of moisturizer next to your sink and keep a travel-size moisturizer with you when you’re on the go.
Moisturizers that work particularly well for dry winter skin include:
- CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion. Developed by dermatologists, this moisturizer includes three essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid to hydrate your skin and protect your skin’s moisture barrier.
- Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream. Formulated with glacial glycoprotein and olive-derived squalane, this lightweight facial moisturizer is specifically formulated to help your skin withstand cold, dry conditions.
- Nivea Soft Moisturizing Creme. This nourishing hand and body cream contains both vitamin E and jojoba oil. Its lightweight formula allows it to absorb quickly into your skin.
2. Apply sunscreen daily
Given the shorter winter days and less sunlight, it can be tempting to cut sunscreen out of your morning routine — but think again. Even in winter, harmful UV light can still stress your skin’s moisture barrier, which is vital for maintaining skin health and hydration.
Try adding a layer of sunscreen each morning after you’ve applied a moisturizer.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends using sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
3. Use overnight treatments
Overnight treatments are an excellent way to revitalize or prevent dry skin. Emollients are great for moisturizing. However, because they’re a heavier type of cream, it can take longer for them to be absorbed into your skin.
By applying an emollient to your skin overnight, your skin will have the time it needs to absorb the treatment and for the emollient to replenish your skin with the moisture and oils it needs.
If you’re applying an ointment to your hands or feet, consider wrapping them in a plastic bag or gloves to prevent spreading the emollient on your sheets or bed covers.
Some emollients that you may want to consider, include:
- Mary Kay Extra Emollient Night Cream. This thick overnight moisturizer can be used on your face, hands, feet, or any area that feels rough and dry. A little goes a long way.
- Aveeno Skin Relief Intense Moisture Repair Cream. This moisturizer contains oat flour, oat oil, ceramides, and rich emollients that can provide deep hydration to the skin on any part of your body.
- Cutemol Emollient Skin Cream. Containing beeswax and rich emollients, this moisturizing cream is especially helpful for healing skin that’s been damaged by frequent handwashing.
4. Adjust your skin care routine
If the skin on your face seems to be especially sensitive or irritated due to the dry winter air, you may want to consider simplifying your skin care routine for the time being.
Keep in mind that your skin’s moisture barrier needs to be healthy in order to respond well to serums, toners, and other types of beauty treatments.
Also, if your skin is irritated, it might be more sensitive to ingredients like fragrance and alcohol. This means that products that would normally feel great on your face could turn into irritants.
Try keeping your skin care routine simple. Consider using just a moisturizer and sunscreen in the morning, and a gentle cleanser with a moisturizer at night.
Once you feel confident that your skin’s moisture barrier is healthy, you can slowly incorporate other treatments and ingredients back into your routine.
5. Use a humidifier
Humidifiers help to add moisture back into the air, which can be especially helpful when indoor heating is cranked up in the winter months. Having more moisture in the air can help act as a natural moisturizing agent which, in turn, may prevent and relieve skin dryness.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, a humidifier setting of 60 percent in winter can replenish moisture in the top layer of your skin.
6. Dial down the temperature
A hot shower or bath at the end of a cold winter’s day can feel especially soothing. But, to keep your skin nourished, you may want to keep the water temperature closer to lukewarm.
According to the Baylor College of Medicine, hot water can strip away your skin’s natural oils faster than lukewarm water (which is typically around 98.6°F/37°C), and possibly even cause damage.
Also, take care when you dry your skin after bathing or showering. Instead of vigorously rubbing, gently pat your skin with a soft towel, which may allow some of the moisture to hydrate the top layer of your skin.
7. Go easy on exfoliants and scrubs
Exfoliation, which helps remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, can help keep your skin looking smooth and vibrant. But, it’s possible to overexfoliate your skin if you do it too often or use the wrong products.
If your skin looks dry or flaky, you may want to opt for a gentle chemical exfoliant rather than a physical scrub. Harsher scrubs with large particles may be more likely to break down your skin’s moisture barrier and cause damage.
If your skin is cracked, raw, or irritated, it may be best to avoid exfoliation until your skin has healed.
8. Try adding occlusives to your routine
Earlier, we mentioned using emollients to help smooth and repair your skin barrier. But, if you find that emollient ingredients aren’t doing enough to heal your dry skin, you may want to consider incorporating occlusive ingredients into your skin care routine.
Occlusive ingredients provide a physical barrier to lock moisture into your skin. Examples of occlusive ingredients include:
- shea butter
- cocoa butter
- rosehip oil
- jojoba oil
- petroleum jelly-based products like Vaseline and Aquaphor
The best way to work these products into your routine is to apply them once or twice per day after moisturizing.
9. Hydrate from the inside
Another key step to keeping your skin healthy and glowing is to make sure you’re staying well hydrated throughout the day. Not taking in enough fluid can affect the appearance of your skin and also make it more susceptible to drying out.
Both of these nutrients can protect your cells from environmental damage and help your body make healthy cells, including skin cells.
10. Opt for nonirritating fabrics
A good rule when dealing with any skin problem is to avoid wearing harsh materials. And dry skin is no exception. If the skin on your body is extra dry, try wearing loose, comfortable, natural fabrics to reduce the risk of extra physical irritation.
Also, avoid washing your clothes in regular detergents. Look for detergents formulated for sensitive skin, which will likely be free of harsh chemicals and fragrances.
11. Wear gloves
Gloves are the ultimate physical barrier against environmental agents that can dry out the skin on your hands.
To protect your hands, wear warm gloves when stepping out into the cold and use a pair of silicone gloves when washing dishes.
Limiting the dry air and hot water that touches your skin can help keep your hands smooth and well hydrated.
While many at-home remedies can help combat dry skin, it’s important to reach out to a healthcare provider or dermatologist if your dry skin symptoms become worse or don’t improve.
They will have recommendations for over-the-counter and prescription treatments meant just for your symptoms.
It’s not uncommon to experience dry, flaky skin in winter that not only affects your face, but also your hands, feet, and other areas that are exposed to the elements.
The key to keeping your skin healthy is to moisturize your skin frequently with the right products. It’s also important to go easy on exfoliating scrubs, hot water, and other skin care treatments.
Using a humidifier, wearing nonirritating fabrics and gloves, and staying well hydrated can protect your skin, too.
If you find that your dry skin isn’t improving with at-home remedies, consider following up with your healthcare provider for the right treatment.