How To Combat Winter Skin Dryness

by - Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In winter, you spend a great deal of time indoors, where there is less moisture in the air because of the heated environment. You may even live in the desert or other low-humidity locale. Under these circumstances, your skin becomes dry, and, left untreated, it can crack, itch and generally become unsightly and uncomfortable. However, here are some preventative measures recommended by New York dermatologists that you can follow to protect yourself and keep your skin silky smooth.

First of all, you should moisturize year round, even in the humid summer months. Moisturizing your face, arms and legs daily all times of the year will promote suppleness by the time the dry months roll around. When winter does set in, you won’t be starting a moisturizing regimen from scratch when your skin is at its thirstiest.

Here are some other strategies to get you through the drought:

Use a Humidifier in Your Bedroom
It’s an investment of money and time to use a humidifier, but it pays off big time by manufacturing and retaining moisture in the air. In a furnace-heated room, there can be as little as 10% humidity in the air, which is very low. A humidifier can keep the room at 30%-50% humidity. Room humidifiers are compact units that you can keep on a small table. Some humidifiers even come with a free-standing humidity gauge that you can keep on a bureau or shelf in your bedroom to check the humidity level in the room. Keep the bedroom door closed for best results. Like with any other appliance, maintenance needs to be performed periodically, but the advantages to using one greatly outweigh the work involved.

Modern home heating systems come with a humidifier attached to the furnace, which will service the entire house, not just the bedroom. If yours doesn’t have one, inquire about adding a unit to your heating system.
Don’t Get into Any Hot Water
Unfortunately, hot water and soft skin do not mix. Hot water can rob the skin of moisture big time. This means you should wash your hands, shower, wash dishes, and even bathe in lukewarm water. While this is not desirable for the dead of winter, you can prioritize your hot water indulgences and forego them other times. For example, if you must have a hot shower, keep it as short as possible, and trade off by using the dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand that day.

If you are a hot tub aficionado, use sparingly during dry spells.
Avoid Drying Soaps
You’ve probably noticed that soaps can dry your skin. Select a creamy moisturizing cleanser that contains glycerin or petrolatum. For a soak in the tub, eschew bubble bath for bath oils or oatmeal scrubs, both of which can soothe dry, itchy skin.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
This cannot be emphasized enough. Be sure to use an ointment-type moisturizer that's oil-based, rather than water-based. Oil is more effective than a cream or lotion at applying a protective layer on the skin to retain moisture. Many lotions labeled as "night creams" are oil-based.

For the face, be sure to look for “nonclogging” oils, such as mineral oil, avocado oil, primrose oil or almond oil. You can also look for lotions containing "humectants," such as glycerin, sorbitol and alpha-hydroxy acids that attract moisture to your skin.

Don’t be afraid to pamper your skin. It will pay off in a big way!

Vanguard Dermatology is led by Dr. Michael Shapiro and his team of board-certified dermatologists in New York City. Connect with Vanguard on

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