Managing Dry Skin in the Winter

It’s that time of the year again--it starts out as a subtle discomfort like a mild tingling sensation, and then gets worse. Skin irritation, redness and painful cracks. Dry skin is extremely common in the winter time for Canadians, even for people who normally don’t have a problem with dryness.

Does everyone get dry skin in the winter?

The moisture levels in the skin are partially determined by genetics, and partially determined by the outside environment. Although people have different baseline levels of skin moisture, everyone will tend to have drier skin in the winter when the climate is colder and drier, but not everyone will have symptoms of excessive dry skin such as cracking of the skin or redness of the skin.

What are the factors that make dry skin such a common problem?

The two most important environmental factors that influence moisture levels in the skin are temperature and humidity. As both of these are low during winter, dry skin becomes common even among people who typically don’t have too many problems with dry skin. Other contributing factors that are unique to winter include greater use of indoor heating (reduces humidity in the air) and the tendency to take hotter and more frequent showers and baths (removes the natural oil that seals in moisture).

What can I do about dry skin?

If you typically don’t have problems with dry skin, you may not be aware of the adjustments that people with dry skin are often aware of. The first habit to incorporate is to use moisturizers on a regular basis—at least twice a day on the affected areas of the skin. Second, avoid the things that remove natural skin oils like bathing in hot water. Hot water removes the protective oils that are designed to protect your skin by sealing the moisture in the body, resulting in dry skin. Instead bathe or shower with warm water instead.

A neat trick after bathing or showering

A good trick to fight dry skin is to know when the best time to moisturize is. After showering, instead of drying yourself with the towel right away, gently pat yourself with the towel, leaving some water on the skin. While the skin is still moist and steaming, apply a moisturizer over the still warm and damp skin. What this trick does is seal in the skin moisture, and avoids vigorous towel rubbing which can irritate the skin. If you don’t already do this, you will definitely notice a difference.

Dress for winter

Dress appropriately for the season. Keeping your skin covered with a long sleeve sweater not only helps you stay warm, but keeps your skin protected from the elements. During the winter your skin is vulnerable, and you want to do your best to keep it well protected.

For more information about dry skin and moisturizers: