How to avoid dry skin during the winter?

Avoiding Dry Skin During Winter
8 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

We're only one month into winter and Dad's already having a hard time adjusting to the cold, dry weather. His lips are chapped, his skin feels overly dry and he seems to be itchier than normal. What's the easiest way to take care of his (and my!) skin during the winter months?

Expert Answers

Jessica J. Krant, MD, MPH, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology, including Mohs micrographic skin cancer surgery. In addition to her work in private practice, Krant is assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Sounds like you and your dad are both suffering from the classic ravages of the dryness of the cold winter air combined with the usually also extra dry air from indoor heating during this time of year. The dryness can sneak up on you both faster than expected, and sometimes the things you might do instinctively to feel less dry actually can make it worse. Here are some good tips for your dad and for you to ward off increasing dryness and itching in the next few months:

1) Take SHORTER showers that are a few degrees cooler than you normally want to take. Aiming for 5 minutes in lukewarm water, rather than 10 or 50 (or 30) in stingingly hot water, can reduce the dryness paradoxically created when the water itself strips natural oils from your skin and leaves you drier than when you started.

2) Use a moisturizing cleanser such as Dove(R) for Sensitive Skin, rather than harsher soaps, and generally only wash a few main areas daily, unless you are specifically dirty otherwise: face, underarms, groin, and feet. Arms, legs, and trunk need soap only every other day or so, and decreasing the amount of soap will decrease these areas that tend to get itchiest fastest in winter.

3) Use a thick, bland moisturizing cream (not lotion) immediately after patting dry and before the skin dries after the bathing. Aveeno(R) Skin Relief Cream is one option since it contains anti-itch ingredients, though there are many good ones. Do this every single day or even twice daily. Don't wait until there is an itchy rash.

4) Lip licking in winter to remoisten dry lips is the biggest cause of chapped lips, and it sneaks up mysteriously because we don't realize we are doing it. Another cause is night time mouth breathing in dry heated air. To heal and protect lips, keep a layer of bland Chapstick(R) or plain Vaseline(R) petroleum jelly on the lips at all times, and work on not licking it off. This creates a barrier between sensitive lip skin and dry air and saliva, and will allow them to heal.

Good luck to both you and dad this winter. Dr. Krant

Community Answers

Leedazem answered...

wash with sorbolene cream,pat dry and reapply

Ca-claire answered...

I have problems with dry, itchy skin during most of the year. I have found that liquid soaps are less drying than bar soaps. I use Whole Foods Shower gel - very inexpensive and comes in unscented form. I only use soap in the groin/underarm/breast areas, as that is where I sweat the most. If I get grubby doing yard work, or woodworking, then I use it all over. When I take a shower (no baths - they dry you out worse than showers), I use one of the terrycloth bath robes to dry my trunk and arms. For my legs, I blot my skin dry using a bathtowel. Then, before leaving the steamy bathroom, I slather on Cetaphil cream - but only every other day, as it takes about that long to come off. It's also unscented, and I have found it in a 20oz tub at Costco in the Pharmacy/health care aisles.

Samuel50 answered...

You can apply moisturizing cream or coconut oil to avoid from dry skin.

Babs5 answered...

Eat SWEET potatoes. They have made all the difference in the world in my skin!!!

I wish I had every penny I have spent on lotions, creams and even prescriptions for my formerly dry skin! I eat sweet potatoes at least 4 times a week, either baked or in pie, and my skin feels like a new born baby!

Bosco2blessed answered...

Olive Oil - immediately out of the bath. I have done this for many years - suffered from eczema, which has not been much of a factor since using olive oil. I disagree with the comment about baths drying you. I add epsom salt and/or baking soda (Avon has the BEST bubble bath) and dry off with my wash cloth - never a towel. My Mom had dry flaky skin before we needed to take over her care due to dementia. She gets raves and favorable comments on her beautiful skin - Extra Virgin Olive Oil only all over. I have not had winter chapped lips in forever.

Wendy the m answered...

buy a clue - put out pots of water in every room near ventilation to keep rooms warmer and moister. and buy another clue: send or take dad to a nice warm climate for the winter. florida, california, the south anywhere, even arid arizona with air conditioning and a pool. put in a conservatory with plants to keep the air moist and natural. put a pot of water on the stove and put a pot of water on the wood burning stove. make sure he gets to exercise daily indoors, and when he goes to the mall or gym he can do some walking also. that increases circulation and keeps him warmer too. make sure he is wearing long underwear and good thick socks, warm enough shoes with sturdy soles that have really good traction for safety. he can wear a knit cap or even a heavy hat indoors and a sweater and scarf around his neck indoors. i wear mittens or knit gloves indoors when i am just lazing or lying around on the couch. it keeps me warmer. keep the temperature up high enough to keep him nice and cozy. hang the expense! sipping liquids, especially water or flavored water, and eating lots of fruit, three pieces a day, keeps him naturally hydrated. you described a classic case of an underheated home. spend the money! he's worth it! i also slather on lots of lotion after bathing, which i do only every other day or every three days, with sponge baths in between to keep my skin from drying out. i am in my late sixties. i keep lots of ice melter on hand for the porch and steps and all the way to my car. i avoid stress by having somebody else drive me in the winter and i don't go out much, either, unless it's above 42 degrees, because cold kills older people. i do get fifteen minutes direct sunlight every single day and take calcium citrate with d3 supplements 1200 mg, daily, and b vitamin stress tabs, in addition to prescribed medications, and aspirin 325 mg morning and night, and everything is hunky dory. i regret not taking glucosamine chondroitin for my knees and coq10 for my heart, as it's necessary to be able to walk around without knee pain and to counteract some medications for the circulatory system with coq10. now i do. it's worth the added expense. i eat a lot of fish because it's brain food, since it makes blood platelets slip by one another and prevents blood clots. never, ever drink caffeine, fried or fatty foods, especially meats. i have some red meat once in awhile for the iron, and spinach too, and daily salads, as well as clear vegetable soups every day. low sodium Progresso soups. watch your weight, keep it normal weight to reduce stress on joints and feet. keep them elevated when not walking around. drains the blood out of them and returns it to the circulation. never sleep lying flat. keep head and back elevated. i put a small pillow under my feet, too, if i am looking puffy around the ankles and feet. an hour of exercise a day, fifteen minutes at a time, is necessary. circulation again. stretching, walking, daily chores, picking things up off the floor, dancing to music. anything. vegetables, three different colors at least every day, at every meal, give fiber. nuts, seeds, lentils, seafood every day. nothing breaded. have some carbs with fiber daily. my systems are all really good because of this. i learned something from this column and will add sweet potatoes and yams four times a week and use extra virgin olive oil from now on after bathing but before drying off - sounds like a real winner! expensive but effective! some people swear by milk baths also. haven't tried that one yet. but am planning to. keep an open mind!

Bamabelle56 answered...

Years ago my doctor told me to start bathing every other day. Also, instead of drying off with a towel, he advised me to wring the water out of the washcloth and pour any oil into the washcloth and to dry off my body with that. It has helped immensely. I genetically have si[er dry skin with very little collagen. My brother and I both have this problem. Lachydrin is a lotion that my doctor also prescribed and it is the best I have experienced.