How to Prevent Dry Skin in Winter

Woman applying white sunblock to face, looking at bathroom mirror, smiling

11 tips to prevent dry skin this winter.

There are many fun things to do during the winter months – skiing, snowshoeing, and sitting by a fire are just a few. But exposure to the cold and wind outside, combined with low-humidity air from indoor heating, can result in dry skin that’s no fun at all.

If you’ve lived in Vermont in the winter, or in any other cold climate, chances are you’ve experienced some of the symptoms of dry skin:

  • Itchiness
  • Rough texture
  • Flaking
  • Fine lines and cracks
  • Wrinkling
  • Change in color (redness or ashy gray tone)
  • Scaling or peeling
  • Stinging or burning feeling
  • Bleeding

Symptoms of dry skin can range from being annoying and uncomfortable to painful. They can also lead to bigger health problems if they go untreated. For example, deep cracks in the skin can allow bacteria to enter the body and cause infections.

In this article, we’ll give you some tips and strategies to help prevent dry skin, so that you’ll be healthier and feel more comfortable this winter.

Why Does Your Skin Go Dry?

It’s important to understand why dry skin occurs, so that you’ll be able to make changes to counteract the factors behind it.

  • Lower humidity outdoors draws moisture out of your skin
  • Heating indoor air decreases humidity
  • Long, hot showers or baths strip skin of natural oils, causing moisture loss
  • Harsh soaps and shampoos can remove oil and lead to dryness

What You Can Do

Taking action early in the winter, before your skin becomes dry, will help you stay ahead of the problem. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Use a humidifier to increase moisture in the air inside your home. Place the humidifier in the room where you spend the most time, such as the bedroom. Set the humidity level control to between 30 percent and 40 percent. If you notice condensation on the windows, you may need to adjust the humidity level downward. Putting out a bowl or vase full of water and letting it evaporate can also help increase indoor humidity. If you have a woodstove, use a cast iron steamer pot on top to produce steam that adds moisture to the air.
  • Limit the length of showers and shower less frequently. Use lukewarm water instead of hot and limit the time you are in the shower to five minutes. You can set a timer to help you know when it’s time to turn the shower off. If you can, shower every other day.
  • Use gentle cleansers free of additives and fragrances, as those ingredients can dry and irritate the skin.
  • Apply a moisturizer immediately after showering or bathing to lock in moisture. Gently pat your skin with a soft towel, but don’t dry it completely. Then apply a moisturizing cream, preferably one that contains hyaluronic acid and ceramides. Other ingredients to look for include dimethicone, glycerin, lanolin, lactic acid, mineral oil, and petrolatum. Avoid lotions with alcohol and fragrances that can irritate the skin.
  • Exfoliate to clear away dead skin so moisturizers can penetrate better. However, avoid exfoliating too often, as it can strip moisture and oils from your skin and make things worse. Don’t exfoliate more than twice a week.
  • Protect your hands by wearing gloves or mittens when outside in the winter. Moisturize your hands often with a non-greasy product containing dimethicone. Wearing rubber gloves when doing tasks that require your hands to be wet, such as washing dishes, can also help.
  • Check your feet as they can be prone to cracking and flaking. Apply a moisturizer to your feet after every shower and rub it in well. Put on socks immediately so the moisturizer stays on and you don’t slip when walking.
  • Protect your lips, as they can dry out quickly in the winter air. There are many lip balms on the market that will help, but an inexpensive product like Vaseline can also provide protection.
  • Apply sunscreen when outside. Even though sunlight seems less intense in winter, ultraviolet light levels are still high. The winter sun, especially when reflected off snow, can damage your skin and cause it to dry out faster. If you’re going to be spending time outside in the winter, apply sunscreen to exposed skin, even on cloudy days.
  • Drink plenty of water to replace lost moisture and help keep your skin in good condition.
  • Don’t sit too close to a heat source. This one may be hard to do, as sitting next to a fireplace or woodstove feels great on a cold winter day, but the extra heat can accelerate drying out your skin.

We hope these skin care tips will help you feel better during our Vermont winters. If you continue to have dry skin after taking these steps, or if it becomes severe, you may want to see a dermatologist. They will be able to evaluate your condition, determine if it’s being caused by a medical problem, and develop a treatment plan. You can use the Find a Doctor tool on our website to find a dermatologist near you.