- Don’t strip your skin of it’s natural oils. When you get “squeaky clean” that means that you not only have removed dirt and grime, but you have also removed your natural oil barrier. That layer helps protect your skin and keep it from getting dry. Dryness can cause itch which leads to scratching and can subsequently cause excoriations (damage to skin from scratching) that can be a portal for infection. To avoid going down this path, use a wash that cleanses gently. Dove is a classic example. Other options for nice cleansers include Epionce Gentle Foaming Cleanser, Epionce Milky Lotion Cleanser, CLn Body Wash, Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser and Cerave Hydrating Cleanser.
- Moisturize with a thick emollient. I, for instance, can use a light moisturizer such as coconut oil in the summer and am fine but as the weather gets cooler and drier, I have to switch to something more robust or the itch begins. Moisturizers help prevent depletion of our natural oils and water by sealing them in place. Plus—for those with poor skin barrier function (e.g., people with eczema)—moisturizers help reduce the frequency and severity of flares in skin inflammation. There are many excellent moisturizers—more than I can name. Some examples include Epionce Medical Barrier Cream, Epionce Renewal Calming Cream, Cetaphil Cream, BeautyCounter Melting Body Balm, Vanicream Skin Cream, and Vaniply Ointment. Before applying, I recommend that you stay in the shower after turning off the water so that the warm humid air surrounds you as you pat your skin dry. Then apply your hydrating cream or ointment. Generally you need to moisturize quickly and thoroughly before water evaporates off of your skin, but this step helps to give you a bit more time to lock in those skin soothing ingredients.
- Avoid potential triggers or aggravating agents for winter itchy skin including: really hot showers, significant direct heat (e.g., space heaters), use of alcohol on skin, and use of fragrances (e.g., fabric softener, dryer sheets, fragrant detergent, etc.). Instead:
- Take warm (not scalding hot) showers.
- If you use space heaters frequently, consider one with a humidifier.
- Avoid alcohol use on the skin.
- Minimize (or ideally, avoid) fragrances on clothing and bedding.
And there you have a few quick tips for preventing and/or reversing dry winter skin! Wishing you a wonderful holiday season–next blog in 2020!
Kesha Buster, MD FAAD (board certified dermatologist)