A woman dealing with dry hands in the winter.
Healthy Living

Why Does Your Skin Feel So Dry in the Winter?

Jan 7 2021

When winter rolls around, there are many things you can depend on, like cooler weather and maybe even a little snow. There’s also dry skin, which can make you very uncomfortable.

Not only does it usually look red and flakey, but it’s often itchy, painful and inflamed. Learn why the colder months cause dry skin and what you can do to prevent and treat it.

Why does winter cause dry skin?

There are two main reasons why your skin dries out during the winter months.

First are the outdoor conditions. During the winter, the humidity is lower which means the air is drier. This causes the moisture in your skin to evaporate at a faster rate.

The other cause has to do with indoor conditions. If you’re like many people, you probably run some type of artificial heat when it’s cold outside. Artificial heat also dries out your skin.

Additionally, right now during the current COVID-19 pandemic, one of the best ways to prevent the spread of this virus is constant handwashing. However, this important habit can also dry your hands out.

Luckily, there are some things you can do to prevent and treat dry skin during the winter. Use the following tips to get your skin hydrated again.

Avoid hot showers and baths

In addition to winter weather and indoor heating, hot showers and baths can dry out your skin. It may be tempting to linger in that hot shower when it’s below freezing outside. Try to cut back on your bathing time or turn the temperature down a notch when you do.

Dress for the weather

When you go outside in the cold, dry weather, make sure you protect your skin with clothing. Wear gloves, scarves, long sleeves and pants, especially when it’s windy. Wind can also speed up your skin’s drying process.

Also, avoid irritating fabrics, like wool and polyester, and stick to cotton. If your socks or gloves get wet, change them immediately. Otherwise, they may rub against your skin. If it’s already dry, the friction may cause even more damage.

Use the right soaps

Washing your hands frequently is a must because that’s the best way to prevent illness, like COVID-19. But all that washing in hot water can dry out your skin, just like a hot shower. Use lukewarm water instead.

It’s also important to use a soap that not only cleans but also moisturizes. If you’re away from home often, consider carrying hand sanitizer in your purse or pocket.

Invest in a good cream, lotion or moisturizer

After you wash your hands and body, it’s important to follow up with a high-quality lotion, cream or moisturizer. Applying lotion to your skin right after you get out of the shower can help lock in moisture and keep your skin healthy.

You’ll also want to invest in a special moisturizer for your face. No matter how much you protect your skin outdoors, your face is always exposed. Give it some extra care with a heavier moisturizer than you usually use. And don’t forget the sunscreen, even in winter!

Stay hydrated

While lotion works on your skin from the outside, drinking water works from the inside. We all tend to drink a little less during the winter, in part because we don’t sweat as much. But drinking enough water throughout the day helps to keep your skin moist and plump. This also keeps your skin from drying out as quickly when you face the dry air or artificial heat.

Still struggling with dry skin?

If you’ve been trying these methods for a while and your skin is still very dry, it is most likely time to reach out to your primary care provider. Sometimes dry skin needs to be treated with prescription-strength moisturizer. In other cases, you could have an undiagnosed skin condition. Whatever the case, your provider will be able to help.

Learn about the health care services we offer at Mercy Health.

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