Easy ways to care for your dry skin this winter
We're more than halfway through winter, but if you're anything like us, your skin may be reaching peak dryness. Thanks to cold temperatures, dry indoor heat, and the dehydrating effects of the long, hot showers that warm us up, we're actually up against a sizable adversary during these winter months.
"In winter, humidity is always lower in the cold air, and when it gets breezy, that dry air wicks moisture out of the skin even quicker than normal. Then we go inside to get warm, and the heat on inside dries us out too. We can't win: so we try getting in a hot, steamy shower to get a little moisture, and don't realize that the water itself actually takes water out of us by osmosis," explains Jessica Krant, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. "Not only that, the heat, and water strip our natural moisturizing oils out of our skin. Then we get out of the shower, and that last bit of dampness evaporating away dries us out even more."
So what can you do? We asked the experts to find out.
"The best way to fix and protect winter skin is to seal it and heal it," Dr. Krant says. "Yes, I just made that up."
That means choosing a moisturizer that locks in moisture and provides some protection of the dermis to encourage healing, but still lets the skin breathe. Krant recommends choosing a thick, fragrance-free cream instead of a lotion, which can be watery, and putting it on after every shower.
Bobby Buka, M.D., a dermatologist in practice in New York City, also encourages a thick moisturizer.
"I like non-petroleum based moisturizers," Dr. Buka told HuffPost Healthy Living. "Naturalists should like this too! Ceramides are naturally occurring moisturizers found in many emollients nowadays."
Your perfume can irritate your skin and, thanks to its alcohol content, can interfere with your skin's ability to maintain moisture levels.
"Avoid fragrance, as this can cause mild irritation that further compromises barrier function against drying elements," Dr. Buka says.
Shortening your shower time and cooling the temperature of the water won't feel so great in the moment, when you'd like a little steam heat in your life, but your skin will thank you later, Dr. Krant says, because hot, long showers strip your skin of its natural moisturizing oils.
Dr. Buka agrees, saying that you shouldn't bathe more than once a day.
"Drink more water each day than you expect to really need," advises Dr. Krant. That will help replenish the water you're losing, thanks to windy, cold weather and overheated houses.
"Coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil applied topically are great," says Patricia Fitzgerald, M.D., HuffPost Healthy Living's Wellness Editor. She credits these nourishing, food-grade oils with helping many of her patients.
Dr. Fitzgerald recommends eating fish oil supplements or another source of heart-healthy omega-3s. That may be because a component of omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid—or EPA—is thought to help regulate the skin's oil production, reports Discovery Health.