Dry Skin in Winter? Here's What to Do

Winter weather can cause dry skin, but you can take steps to prevent it

(RxWiki News) As you start to be able to see your breath in the outside air, you may also start to see some dryness and cracking on your skin. Here's what you can do about wintertime skin dryness.

Skin dryness is a common ailment in the colder months, causing uncomfortable redness and itching. But what causes this issue and how can you prevent it?

Read on for more information about "the winter itch."

What causes dry skin in the winter?

A few factors can cause dry skin in the winter. Perhaps the most obvious factor is the dryness of the air. Winter often brings with it drier air, which sucks the moisture out of the upper layers of your skin. This is especially true for skin that may be exposed when you are outdoors, such as your hands or face.

The following are some other factors that can cause dry skin during the winter months:

  • Exposure to hot water – When showering, bathing or washing your hands, you may be exposed to hot water, which can strip away the skin's natural oils and cause it to dry out.
  • Some dry skin treatments – Often, when people notice their skin drying out during the winter, they apply topical treatments to try to help. These can be helpful, but they can also backfire. For example, applying witch hazel and rubbing alcohol to dry skin can temporarily make it look less dry, but these items dry out your skin even more in the long run.
  • Chemicals – Frequently washing your hands is a good thing, but repeated exposure to harsh soaps can dry out your skin. This is also true of other chemicals, such as chlorine in pool water.
  • Older age – Our skin gets thinner and drier as we age, and hormonal changes like menopause can also contribute to dry skin.

How can I prevent dry skin?

You may understand what causes your dry skin, but how do you go about actually preventing it? Here are a few things you can try:

  • Use moisturizer right after you wash your hands or take a bath or shower.
  • Reduce the temperature of the water you use to bathe or wash your hands — from hot to warm.
  • Use a humidifier in your home.
  • When drying your body and hands, pat yourself dry with a towel rather than rubbing.
  • Avoid scrubbing sponges or other bathing items that can irritate the skin.
  • Never scratch the itchy areas of your skin. Instead, apply a fragrance-free lotion or moisturizer to the area.

Should I be concerned about persistent skin dryness and rash?

In general, dry skin during the winter is harmless — if not itchy and uncomfortable. But there are a few situations in which you may want to contact your health care provider.

If you are taking steps to moisturize your skin and prevent dryness but still seeing the issue, you may be having an allergic reaction to a product or medication you are using. Also, some viral infections can cause skin rashes and dryness.

Severe symptoms, a rash that isn't responding to over-the-counter remedies and skin bleeding are all cause for concern. Contact your health care provider immediately if you experience any of these issues or have any questions.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 29, 2020