Dry, Winter Skin
In case you haven’t noticed, it is wintertime in the north state. And along with all the holiday joy comes dry skin and painfully itchy rashes.
‘Tis the season to scratch. Not only is winter air hard on our skin, it even scabs up the inside of our noses. When it comes to winter itch, there are some simple adjustments you can make to find relief.
Dry air and our indoor heaters wick away significant moisture. Our skin has naturally occurring oils and lipids that protect it from environmental changes like these. The addition of a room humidifier can assist in maintaining your skin.
To a degree, those protective oils and lipids on our skin are washed down the drain each time we use soap. And many soaps are about as gentle as paint stripper these days. A good rule of thumb is that if your soap is fragranced, it is probably too harsh. Scented soaps can be the double whammy on dry skin: The soap breaks down the skin and the fragrance is a local irritant. Is smelling like "Apricot Mist" for 20 seconds before you rinse it down the drain really that important anyway?
Caring For Winter Skin
This time of year, you may want to only wash your armpits and groin with a gentle soap and simply let water run over the rest. You probably don’t need to scrub your body like you did in mid-July. Once ankles and backs get over-soaped and start to itch, it is often the beginning of long period of misery. And the more you scratch, you more you itch. The clawing gets so intense that it sometimes takes on hedonistic qualities. Dermatologists call this the itch-scratch cycle.
If harsh soaps and fragrances still haven’t got you scratching yet, try a blazingly hot shower. Some people commit all three of these "skin sins" and seem absolutely amazed when they start looking like a reptile in mid-December. "It never bothered me before" they say. Well, it does now, evidently.
Cut back on the water temperature until it is lukewarm. I realize nobody inherently likes a lukewarm shower but your goal is to wash your skin, not detoxify your body in a sweat lodge. If you really need a hot shower to get your joints moving in the morning, consider adding an electric blanket to your bed.
Moisturizing Dry Skin
Probably the best time to moisturize is immediately after a shower or bath. You can actually trap in some of the water that turned your hands into prunes. Plain old petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is the ideal product for this. It is dirt cheap and readily available. It is also good at preventing wind-chapped skin. However it doesn’t spread elegantly if you have any degree of body hair and can leave you feeling greasy. I also worry that it can lead to slippery bathroom floors and create an unnecessary fall risk in my elderly patients.
You may want something a little lighter than Vaseline during the day if you aren’t going for the greased pig look. Lighter creams and lotions that contain dimethicone, hyaluronic acid, shea butter, avocado oil or glycerin are good choices. There is no shortage of moisturizer companies competing for your dollar. You do not need purchase the designer brands either to maintain healthy skin. Many of the knockoff brands have the same ingredients. Most products designed for babies are usually a good choice and do a good job in adults also.