‘Tis the season… for dry, itchy skin. Skin dryness can occur any time of year. But you might notice your skin is especially dry during late fall and winter when the air is colder and less humid.
Left untreated, dry skin can lead to itching, flaking, cracking, bleeding, and infection. And it can make you miserable. Try these tips to protect and soothe your skin.
Cold Weather and the Drying Effect
When it’s chilly outside, you’re more likely to turn up the thermostat, take hot showers and put on wool clothing. All of these can dehydrate or irritate your skin.
Frequently hand-washing and using hand sanitizer are important for fending off COVID-19, but they do have a drying effect. So your skin may be paying the price more than usual this season.
8 Tips For Dry, Itchy Skin
Fortunately, there are things you can do to relieve dry skin. Here are eight simple ways to keep skin feeling better.
Avoid Hot Water
Bathe in warm water to save your skin’s natural oils, which help prevent dryness. Spend less than 10 minutes in the bath or shower.
Clean Your Hands Carefully
Try these tips:
- If your hands are dry and cracked, wash them with lukewarm water and gentle soap.
- Try to scrub lightly between fingers and around the nails.
- When you have a choice, soap and water are gentler on the skin than hand sanitizer, which contains drying alcohol.
When you use moisturizer, it creates a seal that helps your skin hold water. Make a habit of moisturizing after bathing and washing your hands, ideally right after patting your skin lightly with a towel.
Keep in mind that ointments and creams, especially thick ones, usually work better than lotions.
Pay Attention to Labels
Using gentle, fragrance-free moisturizers, soaps, and detergents helps prevent or relieve dry and itchy skin. Choose moisturizers with olive oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, petrolatum, glycerin, lactic acid, or urea.
Cracks, Bleeding, or an Infection?
Dry, itchy skin doesn't require medical attention, but it can lead to more serious conditions if left untreated.
Give Your Lips Some Love
Treat chapped lips with hypoallergenic and fragrance-free lip balm or white petroleum jelly to help keep them moist.
When the weather’s frightful, protect your skin with a scarf, hat, and gloves. Breathable materials like cotton and silk work well as layers under wool clothing. Use protective gloves for tasks that involve putting your hands in water or working with chemicals.
Boost Humidity at Home
Heating systems dry the air indoors, so it can be helpful to run a humidifier. Don’t sit too close to the fireplace or radiator.
Fight the Urge to Scratch
Instead, relieve your itch by placing a cold compress (ice pack or cool, wet cloth) on your skin for 5 to 10 minutes.
If home remedies don’t help your skin, call your doctor’s office. Your doctor might recommend medications. You may need to schedule an appointment to check for allergies or an underlying condition such as eczema.
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