Unless you’re lucky enough to live somewhere warm, when winter arrives you’re probably unpacking your coats and wooly socks and cranking up that thermostat. But sometimes your skin pays the price of staying warm and toasty. Heaters can suck humidity out of the air, zapping your skin of the moisture it needs to stay soft, smooth and inflammation-free.
Space heaters, central heat, wood burning stoves and fireplaces can all decrease air humidity, though steam heat may add some moisture back. Even the extra hand washing that you should do during winter months to stay healthy can dry out skin on the hands and lead to uncomfortable cracked knuckles.
As the skin dries, small cracks can form and allow allergens, irritants and even bacteria to enter and generate inflammation. This can lead to a host of skin problems including the worsening of any pre-existing skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
Luckily, there are many simple things you can do to help keep your skin glowing during the winter season. Here are some suggestions endorsed by the American Academy of Dermatology:
Hot showers or baths may feel delightful at first, but they are big culprits when it comes to zapping moisture from your skin. Here’s how to enjoy your bath without regretting it later:
- Use warm, not hot water
- Limit your shower or bath to 5-10 minutes
- Close the bathroom door to keep moisture in the room while you’re bathing
- Use a gentle cleanser sparingly and avoid products with alcohol
- Blot your skin dry (don’t rub) with a towel and immediately apply moisturizer
Every time you wash your hands, face or body, use an ointment, cream or lotion. Moisturizing your skin on a regular basis will help keep it from drying out. Some good ingredients to look for include olive oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, urea and petrolatum. You can save greasier ointments or creams for night use and carry a fast-absorbing one with you for daytime use. And don’t forget your lips need moisture too, so find a good lip balm and avoid licking your lips, as the saliva will evaporate and leave your lips dry and cracking.
Keep the delicate skin on your hands smooth by wearing gloves before going outside or when doing tasks that require you get your hands wet, like washing dishes.
Using a humidifier in your common living areas or bedroom can add back moisture that your heating system sucks away. These little machines can also help soothe other dry-air-related problems like sore throats.
If your dry, painful skin still won’t go away, be sure to see your doctor to see if another skin condition might be to blame or if a prescription remedy is needed.