What do I do for Dry Skin?
Dry skin in the winter can get very frustrating. Remember to keep your skin hydrated and to liberally apply a gentle moisturizer over the whole body at least daily to help repair and protect your skin from the harsh winter cold and dryness. Avoid scratching dry skin as this can further damage the skin and continue the cycle of dryness and itchiness. Don’t forget to wear a moisturizer with a SPF of at least 30 to protect your face from winter dryness and winter rays!
Skin in the winter can get very dry, itchy, and irritated. Dry skin is also called xerosis. Xerotic skin can be dry, flaky, rough, cracked, and in dark skin appear gray and ashy. People who are constantly in dry environments, need to wash their skin frequently, have a history of eczema, and the elderly are more predisposed to xerosis. Daily skin care is especially important in the winter to prevent cracking and irritation of the skin. Cold air carries less moisture and as a result, our skin has less moisture in it as well. Dry skin is not a good barrier to outside irritants. These outside irritants entering our skin can promote itchiness and can initiate an inflammatory response in our skin. People with a history of eczema are already predisposed for this barrier dysfunction. As a result of cold weather, irritants, and itching, our skin can become very cracked, red, or open. Hands can become cracked and bleed and can be very painful and debilitating. This is why it is very important to keep your skin hydrated in the winter.
We recommend daily showers with warm water and a gentle fragrance free soap. A gentle moisturizer should be applied afterwards and throughout the day. Lotions and creams with an ingredient called ceramides help restore the skins natural lipids and pH to allow the skin to function more optimally as a barrier. Ingredients petrolatum or lanolin help seal moisture into the skin. Urea and lactic acid help the skin hold water, but these ingredients may be irritating to some. We recommend gentle moisturizers such as Cetaphil cream, Cerave cream, and Vanicream for especially sensitive skin.
For very dry and cracked hands, we recommend applying hand cream after every hand washing. One we like is Neutrogena Hand Cream. Frequent hand washing can strip the skin of natural lipids that protect the skin. If frequent hand washings are needed, gentle soap is recommended. 3M Avagard hand sanitizer is an option that works well and is not over drying.
For dry cracked lips, application of Vaseline or Aquaphor is recommended. Licking of the lips can further aggravate this delicate skin and avoidance of this is best.
It is important to try not to scratch dry itchy skin. Scratching can further abrade the skin, break down its barrier, and cause even more inflammation. For itchiness that persists, daily allergy medications such as Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra in the morning and Benadryl at night can help reduce the need to scratch. Generic versions of these can be just as helpful. It is important to follow the directions on these over the counter medications for safety.
When skin becomes very dry and cracked, germs can get into the skin. Red sore spots can be a sign of infection. It is important to get this treated. Uncontrollable dryness, itch, or breakdown of the skin may be a sign of a more persistent dermatitis or other skin disease. It is important to get this type of skin examined. My Dermatologist can help as prescription creams such as steroids may be needed to break the cycle in these cases. We can also help with recommending a skin care regimen and other treatments as necessary to get you to feeling your best. Remember to keep your skin hydrated and don’t forget to wear daily moisturizers for your face with at least an SPF of 30. Make an appointment today if you are concerned about your dry winter skin.
Sources: Bolognia, Moore and Saxena, AAD