Tips for taking care of chapped winter skin

Dry skin is commonplace during the wintertime, especially in climates that get hit by dry, windy, cold weather.  Dry skin can be uncomfortable – the texture of rough, flaky skin can be bothersome, and dry skin is the leading cause of itchy skin that is not otherwise accompanied by a rash.

So what can you do to help prevent dry, winter skin?

Cover up.  Exposing your skin to the wind can lead to chapping.

  This commonly occurs on the lips and the face which are exposed during cold days even when the rest of the body is covered.  Get a good chapstick to provide a protective cover over the lips.  If you do not have one ready, petroleum jelly will do the trick or another thick ointment such as Aquaphor Healing Ointment or Aveeno Healing Ointment.  For the rest of the face, invest in a good moisturizing cream that can provide some barrier to the wind and also moisturize the skin.  More on moisturizers later.

Keep in mind that if you are participating in an activity such as skiing, the sun can also lead to chapping of the skin from a sunburn!  Yes, even in the winter.  You want to be cognizant about using a sunscreen especially in these cases where you would be especially exposed.

Keep moisturized.  Moisturization helps restore the water content in the skin.  Water evaporates from the skin.  The dry surrounding air and the wind which hits your skin promote that evaporation of water from your skin.

  Adding a moisturizer that provides a barrier to this evaporation helps prevent this evaporation and helps add back some of the water content into the top layer of the skin.  As prevention, you want to keep your skin moisturized throughout the day instead of waiting for it to dry out and then moisturize it.

  This may mean applying moisturizer every couple hours.

It is important to find a good moisturizer.  One that is excessively watery may not have enough of a sealing function to seal in moisture content.

Avoid drying soaps and detergents.  Harsh soaps and detergents can further strip protective oils from your skin and promote further drying of the skin.  Areas that are not soiled or dirty may not necessarily have to be cleansed with soap every day in the shower.  When looking for a soap or cleanser, opt for one that

If you have developed dry, winter skin, what can you do about it?

Slap on the moisturizer.  See above.  Re-introduce some moisture content into your dry skin with a good moisturizer.

“Soak and seal.”  Consider the concept of “soak and seal.”  The idea is that when your skin has a high moisture content, you seal this moisture in with a sealant.  For instance, after a bath or shower, the skin’s water content increases.  After stepping out of the bath or shower, immediately pat dry and seal in the moisture from the bath or shower with a good moisturizing cream or ointment.

   Some people use wet wraps especially if they have a condition called eczema.  Here, a wet wrap is applied to the skin so that the skin increases its water content as well.  When the wet wrap is removed, a sealant such as a good moisturizing cream or ointment is applied.

Flaky skin? Let it be.  Avoid the urge to pick off or vigorously exfoliate flakes of skin. You do not want to do more harm than good and hurt the skin.  Along the same vein, try not to scratch as even the act of repetitive scratching, picking or exfoliation can lead to an itchy rash in and of itself.

Avoid irritating substances.  If your skin is already compromised, let it heal before applying any irritating substances.  Irritating substances include fragrances or strong detergents.

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