How to soothe dry, itchy skin in the winter

Health
Woman scratching itchy back

The arrival of colder weather means it’s a great time for warm beverages and evenings by the fire. But unfortunately for many people, chilly temperatures are also a harbinger of dry, irritated skin.
“During the colder months, the amount of moisture in the air decreases,” says Dr. James Turek, a family medicine physician at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Garden City. “As a result, many people struggle with dry skin.”
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to combat the problem.

Avoid hot showers and baths

A hot shower in the morning may feel comforting, but it’s not great for your skin. That’s because bathing in water, especially hot water, for an extended period of time strips your skin of its natural oils.
“The natural oils that your skin produces act as a protective barrier,” Dr. Turek says. “Without that barrier, the skin is more susceptible to drying out.”
Instead, turn the dial down to warm and limit your time in the bath to 10 minutes or less.

Limit use of harsh soaps

The use of harsh soaps can also contribute to dry skin. Like hot water, they can strip natural oils from your skin.
To help keep your skin moist, consider using milder options such as cleansing creams, gentle skin cleansers or bath or shower gels with moisturizers, Dr. Turek says.

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Choosing the right soap may take a bit of trial and error, he says. If using a particular product leaves your skin feeling itchy, dry or tight, give another option a try.
And remember that just because a soap works for a friend or family member doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

Apply lotion regularly

Lotion can help save your skin from dryness during the winter months.
“Lotion works by helping the skin retain moisture,” Dr. Turek says. “If you have sensitive skin, look for an oil-based moisturizer that is free of fragrance to minimize irritation.”
He says it can be especially beneficial to use a moisturizing cream such as Eucerin, Cetaphil or Lubriderm after bathing to help trap in moisture. Vitamin E, baby and almond oils can also be applied after bathing to help people who struggle with extremely dry skin during the colder months.

Use a humidifier

During the winter, dry air is everywhere — indoors and out. So if dry skin is something you struggle with, an indoor humidifier may be a wise investment.
Humidifiers emit water vapor, which mixes with the air in your home.

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“When it comes to indoor humidity, humidifiers can make a big difference,” Dr. Turek says. “If you can’t humidify your entire home with a whole-house system, consider placing a portable unit in a bedroom or other area where you spend a lot of your time.”
If you have excessive dryness or your dry skin persists despite your efforts to address it, consider bringing it to the attention of your physician, Dr. Turek says. He or she can evaluate your skin and help you find solutions.

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