This particular winter hasn’t been all that wintery so far, but that doesn’t mean you’re not feeling a change in your skin. Seasonal changes from the humidity of a Houston summer to the drier air of fall and winter can wreak havoc on your skin, especially if it’s already prone to being a little dry. Here are some things to keep in mind about dry skin as we forge on through January and February.
Be Mindful of Your Skin at Home
Good skincare obviously starts at home and involves more than simply washing your face. Follow these tips to help keep your skin supple:
- Close the bathroom door when showering. This keeps the area humid, which is better for your skin.
- Limit your showers to a few minutes and use warm water instead of hot, which can strip your skin of moisture.
- Only use a gentle face wash and skincare products. If you’re prone to dry skin, you may want to look for a cream- or gel-based facial cleanser. Cream and gel cleansers do not typically create foam and are gentler on your skin. Look for body washes that are gentle or unscented as the perfumes typically contain alcohol that will dry your skin.
- Switch to a laundry detergent that is free from dyes or fragrances.
- If you’re having a lot of trouble with dry skin, it might be worth investing in a good humidifier. Plug it in at night while you sleep, especially if your room is typically cooler or drafty at night.
- Keep warm with blankets, not a fire. The idea of a roaring fire on a cold winter’s night is cozy, but all that heat is extremely drying to your skin. Instead opt for that Snuggie you swore you’d never buy.
- Don’t forget sunscreen. Even if it’s cloudy. Even if it’s cold. The sun can still beam down through those clouds and damage your skin, so apply your broad-spectrum sunscreen as faithfully as you would in the summer –about 30 minutes before you plan on going out.
Hydrate, Hydrate, HydrateDryer times call for moisture measures. First, you should be putting a good moisturizer on your skin minutes after you get out of the shower – this includes your face and body (though you should be using separate products for these). Talk to your dermatologist about your skin type and see what kind of facial moisturizer they suggest for you. You want to be sure you’re not using anything that can clog your pores, will feel greasy or promote breakouts. As for a body moisturizer, unscented oil-based moisturizers are the way to go. They create a protective barrier between your skin and the elements and will help your skin retain moisture as the dry winter wind tries to pull it out. Your hands have fewer oil glands than other parts of your body and your skin is thinner there, so remember to keep a good hand cream with you to apply throughout the day. Also, if it’s very cold, wear gloves any time you’re outside.
Another note – lotions listed as having humectants or containing glycerine, alpha hydroxy acids or sorbitol help attract moisture to the skin. Try to avoid anything that would purposefully dry your skin, such as a chemical peel or a drying mask.
When You Should See a Dermatologist
First, if you have any questions about your skin, contact your dermatologist. Typically, dry skin can be managed with the suggestions discussed above, but it is possible that your dry skin could be a symptom of a larger health issue, such as diabetes, Sjogren syndrome (a disease that affects the glands that make moisture) or a thyroid disorder. It can also be a red flag for conditions such as eczema or dermatitis. If you’ve got dry skin, especially if it’s itchy and cracking, and none of the suggestions above have helped, it’s time to contact your doctor. Even if there isn’t a larger underlying problem, your dermatologist might be able to prescribe a stronger cream made specifically to help people with extremely dry skin.
Dr. Anita Mehta is a board-certified dermatologist who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Main Campus. Her clinical interests include cosmetic dermatology, skin cancer, psoriasis, acne and eczema, among others.