With winter comes drier, colder air.
There are upsides to the change. A break from the oppressive heat and suffocating humidity of summer. Sweater weather, hoodie season, your chance to simply throw a beanie on your head and head out the door.
Then there are the downsides. Winter usually means getting zapped by static electricity more frequently. Ouch.
Of longer lasting annoyance and discomfort is the dry skin the season can bring.
Why is my skin so dry in the winter?
Some people have dry skin year round, though winter typically triggers the worst of it. And even those spared dry skin most months of the year are likely to deal with it at some point during the winter.
"As Houstonians, our skin generally tends to be less dry because of the humidity," says Annie Christenson, a medical aesthetician at Houston Methodist who practices with the ENT specialists. "But anyone can develop dry skin during the colder, drier months of winter."
The reason for this is as simple as it sounds. Cold air holds less moisture. When the environment around you is drier, your skin gets drier, too. And outdoor elements aren't the only factor — the heaters we turn on when the temperature drops can dry out the indoor air too.
The result is dry skin that can range from scratchy and annoying to itchy and uncomfortable.
8 winter skin care tips
How should you treat dry skin in the winter? Christenson has some tips.
1. Know the dry skin prevention basics
Regardless of the season, Christenson says we can help prevent dry skin by:
- Staying hydrated
- Incorporating healthy fats into our diet, such as olive oil and avocado
- Avoiding drinking a lot of caffeine or alcohol
2. Adopt a winter skin care routine
"When the weather changes, you may need to have a completely different skin care regimen," says Christenson.
If you're prone to dry skin in the winter, essential to your routine are:
- Body oil spray
- Moisturizing lotion or cream
"Body oil sprays are a great addition to your winter skin care regimen," Christenson says. "As soon as you get out of the shower, pat yourself somewhat dry — don't dry yourself off completely, leave some moisture — and then spray yourself down with the oil and massage it into the skin."
She says to be careful as you use a body oil spray if the floor is tile, since these products can make it very slippery.
"Then I like to put on a moisturizing lotion or cream," Christenson recommends. "You don't need anything fancy or expensive unless you've let your skin get very, very dry. Do this for both your face and body."
3. Exfoliate frequently
Christenson points out that body oil sprays, lotions and other skin care products work best when the skin is exfoliated.
"Exfoliation is when we scrub away the layer of dead skin cells that's collected on top of the skin," says Christenson. "Removing this layer is important since it lets our moisturizing products penetrate the skin more effectively."
Exfoliating can be as simple as scrubbing your body with a loofah. Christenson recommends using a synthetic one if you live in an area like Houston, where molds grow easily due to the generally humid weather. Additionally, you can use shower gels and body washes that contain chemical or physical exfoliants.
4. Avoid hot showers
"It feels so good to stand in that steamy, hot shower," acknowledges Christenson. "But if you have dry skin, it's only going to make things worse for you — mainly because it sucks more oils and moisture out of your skin, increasing the chance for it to dry out."
It may be tough to adjust at first but consider either dialing down the heat or taking shorter showers.
5. Be consistent with your winter skin care routine
An important part of preventing dry skin during the colder, drier months is taking these steps every day, not just once your skin gets really dry.
"I always say that it's a good idea to keep these additions to your normal routine on your counter, so you can see them and remind yourself to use them regularly," recommends Christenson. "Consistency goes a long way and can really make a difference."
If you do fall behind and your skin already has become dry and itchy, Christenson says you may need a heavier duty moisturizer or lotion to get your things back to normal. Products that use terms like "Ultra Healing" and "Severely Dry" often indicate they're specifically formulated to help repair dry skin.
6. Keep lotion around and readily available
Even if you are following a consistent routine every day, you may find certain areas of your skin are still prone to drying out during the day — typically the backs of the hands or tops of the feet.
"These areas are generally just less protected," explains Christenson. "Our hands, in particular, are very prone to drying out. We wash them, we touch things. These actions pull oils and moisture out of them."
Christenson recommends keeping moisturizer readily available next to your bed or at your desk, reapplying to dry areas of skin as needed.
7. Pretreat dry skin
"Watch the weather and pull out your supplies anytime you see the temperature is about to drop," recommends Christenson. "Start using your winter products early, so your skin goes into that weather change prepared."
8. Don't skip the sunscreen
We tend to primarily think about sunscreen when it's hot outside, but Christenson points out that just because it is cold outside doesn't mean the sun isn't out.
"Sunscreen is the best way to prevent skin cancer," says Christenson. "Even though the days are shorter in the winter, the sun can be just as bright, so don't forget your sunscreen."
Plus, the benefits of sunscreen in the winter don't stop there.
"Not only does it help protect your skin from the harmful UV rays released by the sun, sunscreen also adds an extra layer of moisture which can further help prevent dry skin," adds Christenson. "Sunscreen usage is also the best way to keep your skin looking young."