Winter is in full force and for many people, this time of year means itchy and uncomfortable, dry skin. The lack of moisture in the air causes skin to lose water, leaving you with skin that is dry, scaly and itchy. Let us give you some helpful hints on how to combat dry skin, also known as the “winter itch.”

What causes dry skin? Usually, something in the environment — or something you’re doing to your skin — is stripping away oils, leaving your skin unprotected. Many times, indoor air from heaters can cause dry skin. Less often, the cause is internal; a health condition or genetic predisposition is making your skin dry out. While patches of dry, itchy skin can appear anywhere, it’s most common on the arms, hands, lower legs, and abdomen.

Here are some tips on how to treat and prevent dry skin, as well as how to handle the itching that comes along with this annoying condition.

1. Even though a long, hot shower sounds like a great idea on a cold winter morning, it can worsen your dry, itchy skin! Always try to use lukewarm water and keep the time in the shower to a minimum, less than 10 minutes. Small children can bathe every two to three days and use Cerave cleanser with a wash cloth to clean your child on non-bath days.

2. While bathing try to use a small amount of soap; in fact, examples of mild soaps include Cerave cleanser, unscented Dove or Cetaphil. Stay away from bubble baths, scented or colored soaps, and antibacterial soap, which can irritate dry skin. Avoid vigorously scrubbing skin, especially with rough sponges and brushes, when cleansing your skin.

3. After bathing, seal in that moisture! Pat your skin lightly with a towel and apply lotion, cream or body oil while you’re skin is still damp. This will help seal in moisture and leave your skin feeling great!

4. Use your moisturizer at least twice a day to your whole body. Cerave cream and Cetaphil cream are great over the counter moisturizers. Avoid products such as powders, perfumes, scented oils or colognes on your skin.

5. Dry lips?? Licking them won’t bring relief – it will only make them more dry and chapped. To keep your lips soft and smooth, apply a moisturizing lip salve, such as Aquaphor, Clinque medicated lip balm or Vaseline, especially before bed.

6. Use unscented hypoallergenic laundry products such as Dreft, Purex and All Free and Clear. If your skin is still very dry, you can try doubling-rinsing your clothes.

7. Avoid tight or “scratchy” clothing, such as wool. Always wash new clothes before wearing them for the first time.

8. Hook up the humidifier! A humidifier can be used at night to add more moisture into the air. Remember to keep it clean to avoid mold problems.

9. For all the travelers, did you ever notice that your skin and hair feel tight or dry when you get off of an airplane? The humidity on a plane can reach as low as 1% humidity on long flights and it can take just a 3 hour flight to sap all the moisture from your skin and hair. So stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during and after your flight, limit your intake of coffee and alcohol – they just make things worse, carry your moisturizer in your hand luggage to slather on mid flight and before you deplane, splash your face with water and follow by your moisturizer.

If you find yourself still struggling with dry and itchy skin, come see us at Warthan Dermatology!