In Medical Dermatology, Skin Care

As it gets colder out, there are always many changes that happen. The leaves fall from the trees, people start to prepare for the holiday season and many of us may start to experience drier skin than usual. Dry skin during the winter is completely normal. As the humidity in the air drops, the water in your skin will evaporate quicker. This may cause your skin to feel dry, tight or even look flaky. Knowing how to combat dry skin during the colder months is essential. Here, Dr. Richard Laws shares his tips on how to prevent dry skin this winter.

Bathe less often

The easiest method to prevent dry skin as the temperature drops is to bathe less often. Many Americans bathe once or twice daily and spend time scrubbing their skin with a washcloth or luffa, but this is not the best way to combat dry skin.

A little history lesson about our skin and bathing: Before the 1840s, only the wealthy had indoor plumbing. Indoor showers started to appear in most houses in the 1930s to 1950s. A boy scout manual from the 1950s recommends that boys ideally bathe twice a week and shampoo their hair once weekly. We’ve never showered as often as we do now and probably never used more soap. Washcloths are a vestige from washing with a basin and are no longer necessary for showering.

So, how does this relate to dry skin? It’s simple. Water rinses away many of the skin’s natural oils. The more it comes into contact with the skin, the drier the skin becomes. Excessively hot water is especially drying, as are many soaps and cleansers.

Causes of dry skin

If you look at the common causes of dry skin, you will see that some are easy to avoid:

  • Bathing too frequently
  • Excessive use of soaps that don’t have moisturizing properties
  • Scrubbing with a washcloth or luffa

Other causes are harder to address:

  • “Winter itch” – Caused by indoor heat and low humidity
  • Genetics – Some people just have drier skin
  • Age – Our skin makes less oil with age
  • Stress – Hormonal imbalances caused by stress can lead to dry skin

How to get moisture back

People with dry, itchy skin will improve most quickly by using soap (or cleanser) only for the underarms, groin and feet during most showers. The brand of cleanser you use makes little difference. Rinsing the body and soaping only those “special areas” will still get you clean. Keep in mind that showering less often means less work!

Next, apply a cream-based moisturizer after every shower. People with dry or itchy skin should not use lotions that have a high water content, as these tend to dry the skin even more. Instead, purchase products labeled as “cream” or “ointment” that comes in a tub or jar. Forget the term “moisturizing lotion;” this is sales lingo to appeal to more consumers.

How to protect your skin this winter

In an interview with Good Morning Columbia, Dr. Asha James discusses what steps you should take, so your skin will be healthy and radiant all winter long.

You can view her interview on ABC COLUMBIA.

Dr. James’s Top 5 Tips to Prevent Dry Skin:

1. Prevent baths and showers from making dry skin worse
2.  Apply moisturizer immediately after washing
3.  Use gentle, unscented skincare products and laundry detergents
4.  Wear gloves for your hands
5.  Add moisture to the air

Dry skin care in Columbia

If you have tried all of the above tips and are still battling overly dry skin, the dermatologists at Columbia Skin Clinic can help. We personalize treatment for each patient and help you meet your skincare goals. Contact us today to make an appointment.

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