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As the cool days of autumn turn into the cold days of winter, you might begin to experience the unwelcome effects of chronic dry skin: itchiness, scaling and even cracking.
“When it turns cold we turn our central heating systems on, which reduce the natural moisture in our skin and causes it to dry out,” says Richard Price, M.D., of Price Skincare Clinic in Ridgeland, MS. “The problem gets worse as we age and the skin becomes thinner and dryer, as well as for those taking certain medications such as diuretics or those who have medical conditions.”
To prevent chronic dry skin or treat the uncomfortable effects, follow these tips.
Tip #1: Moisturize
The most important thing you can do for your skin during the winter is to moisturize on a daily basis. And not just any moisturizer will do. Look for products listing ingredients such as ceramides, dimethicone and shea butter, which help seal the moisture in the skin.
Tip # 2: Apply Daily
Not only do you need to choose the right moisturizer, you should apply at least once per day if not twice. Increase frequency of moisturizing during the coldest weather and apply just after a bath or shower when your skin is still wet. The moisturizer will help lock the water into your skin.
Tip #3: Avoid harsh cleansers
Avoid cleansers such as soaps that dry your skin out. Stay away from exfoliants, scented soaps and alcohol-based cleansers. Instead, use gentle fragrance-free cleansers and body washes, which often contain moisturizing ingredients.
Tip #4: Use Cream not Lotion
Lotions often have more alcohol content which leads to dry skin. But creams with olive oil, avocado oil or shea butter can help keep the moisture in your skin and help prevent dry itchy skin.
Tip #5: Humidify the air
To combat the effects of central heating systems, use a humidifier inside your home to add moisture back into the air.
Tip #6: Avoid Hot Showers
While a hot shower will feel good after a day out in the cold, resist the urge. Hot showers can deplete the natural moisture from your skin and make it dry and itchy. Set your shower temperature to warm and take showers 10 minutes or less.
Tip #7: Try an Oral Antihistamine for Relief of Itching
If itching is driving you crazy, try an oral over-the counter antihistimine. But be careful as some will make you drowsy. Allegra or Claritin can help relieve itching but won’t put you to sleep. However, antihistamines such as Benadryl or Chlor-Trimenton can make you drowsy so only use these at night.
When to See a Doctor
If your skin becomes red, inflamed, irritated or unrelenting itchy, and you’ve tried the tips above, it’s probably time to see a skin doctor. You might have a more serious skin condition that requires prescription medication. And you don’t want your skin to get so dry that it cracks, which can become infected and require oral antibiotics.