Practical Tips for Dry Winter Skin

Winter is particularly rough on skin. As the temperatures drop, so do humidity levels which often leads to dry, itchy skin. But there are several easy steps to “winterize” your skin.

Posted on | Elizabeth Tanzi, MD | Comments ()

Winter is particularly rough on skin. As the temperatures drop, so do humidity levels which often leads to dry, itchy skin. But there are several easy steps to “winterize” your skin.

  1. Minimize the number of hot baths or showers a day. Hot water strips the skin of natural oils, so it’s best to use warm water instead.
  2. Avoid harsh soaps and cleansers. Anti-bacterial and deodorant soaps are usually the most drying. Choose gentle, non-fragranced cleansers. And in the winter, I tell my patients to wash only those areas that develop a smell, such as underarms, groin, and feet.  Avoiding soap on the arms, legs, and back (the areas that tend to get very dry in winter) will allow the skin’s natural oils to remain.
  3. After bathing, follow the “Tanzi Two Minute Rule” which means you need to slather on the moisturizer within two minutes of toweling off.  Moisturizers are best used immediately after bathing to lock the water into your skin.
  4. Use a high quality, thick moisturizer. Although petroleum jelly-based products are highly moisturizing, they can be greasy. Other good ingredients to look for in a moisturizer include shea butter, lactic acid, dimethicone, or hyaluronic acid. The most important time to use a moisturizer is right after the bath (see #3), but is also helpful when used liberally throughout the day.
  5. Get a humidifier for your bedroom. Central heating leads to very low humidity levels, which in turn dries out the skin. Humidifiers come in many different varieties; there is no one best brand to purchase.  Pick one that works for you and your budget and be sure to keep it clean.
  6. The hands can get painfully dry and cracked in the winter due to frequent hand-washing and the increased use of anti-bacterial hand sanitizers. Hydrate them overnight with petroleum jelly and inexpensive cotton gloves.

If the above steps don’t help relieve your dry, itchy skin, see your doctor. A prescription-strength cream to soothe the irritation and bring the skin back to a more balanced level of hydration may be required.

Blog written by Elizabeth Tanzi, MD
Dr. Tanzi, Co-Director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, DC, is an internationally...