Winter may be loved for many reasons, but dry skin isn’t one. Everybody wants to look and feel their best during this famously touted holiday season and end their year on a cheery high.
However, despite our best attempts, the gods of nature may have it otherwise. The chilly outdoors and the artificially heated interiors render our living atmosphere utterly arid. The low level of humidity tends to reflect poorly on the largest organ of the human body, the skin.
Because the skin is unable to draw and retain sufficient moisture from its surroundings, the epidermis starts to look parched and flaky. This condition is further aggravated by other factors, such as taking frequent and extensive hot showers to beat the cold, not drinking enough water, using harsh chemical-based cleansing agents, aging, and certain medical conditions.
A 2018 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology noted that seasonal and climatic changes were accompanied by a simultaneous change in the levels of breakdown products of filaggrin, a kind of protein that helps maintain the skin’s barrier function.
Particularly during winters, the frequent switching between the cold outdoors and warm interiors tends to affect our capillaries. Moreover, the freezing temperatures are also associated with changes in the skin’s surface brought about by increased cellular shrinkage.
Usually, skin dryness is more noticeable in areas such as the arms, hands, lower legs, abdomen, ankles, and soles.
Causes of Dry Skin
The skin tends to become drier due to the drop in the temperature and also humidity. This causes the skin to become dehydrated, leading to dry skin patches, irritation, and itchiness.
While weather is a major factor, there are also other reasons behind skin dryness. Such causes include:
- Inadequate moisture in the body
- Indoor heating system
- Enjoying hot baths or showers
- Frequent hand washing
- Poor water intake
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun
- Using harsh soaps and detergents
- Wearing the wrong clothing
- Certain medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, psoriasis, diabetes, and dermatitis.
Signs and Symptoms of Dry Skin
The first noticeable symptom is skin dryness, but there can be other signs and symptoms too, such as:
- Patches of thickened, rough skin
- Signs of cracks on the skin
Complications of Dry Skin
At the face of it, dry skin is a relatively harmless condition with no serious implications for your general health. In fact, a lot of people even dismiss it as being a purely cosmetic concern. However, in some cases, dry skin can bring in its wake certain painful and uncomfortable complications:
- Winter is a particularly difficult time of the year for patients with eczema, as the weather-induced skin dryness can cause their symptoms to flare up.
- If your skin happens to be overly dehydrated and dry, the incessant scratching can break it open to form cracks. A ruptured skin surface layer provides easy access to all sorts of bacteria and germs that can cause infection.
- Constantly scratching your skin can also render it rough, thick, and leathery in texture.
- When the integrity of your skin is compromised with the formation of cracks and fissures, there may be occasional bleeding.
Prevention of Dry Skin
- Taking long, hot showers and baths can make skin extra dry and itchy by ridding it of its natural oils. Thus, it’s best to opt for short lukewarm showers. Also, reduce the frequency of these showers during the cold months and add a moisturizing product to your bathing water.
- In order to retain your skin’s moisture, massage some sunflower seed oil, vitamin E oil, or almond oil onto your skin when you’re fresh out of the shower and your body is still damp.
- Similarly, apply a moisturizer after washing your hands. Once you’ve showered, it is best to pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it with a towel.
- Keeping your skin moisturized by applying moisturizing creams, emollients, or ointments several times a day is a fundamental step to prevent dryness. These lubricants help restore natural skin lipids, which form a film that helps seal water in the stratum corneum or the surface layer of the skin. Because cream moisturizers tend to absorb more readily into the skin, they are often preferred over other treatments. Moreover, dermatologists recommend always using a non-alcohol-based moisturizer to keep your skin soft, smooth, and well protected.
- Opt for a mild non-soap skin cleanser instead of traditional soaps as they can prove too harsh for your sensitive skin. Conventional varieties of soaps tend to dry out the skin by depleting its natural oil content. It’s best to steer clear of antibacterial soaps as well.
- Most homes are installed with a central heating system, a space heater, or a fireplace to keep them warm during the chilly season. These internal heating systems work by circulating hot air inside the room, rendering the environment completely devoid of moisture. This can make your skin excessively dry and itchy. To counter this, place a humidifier in your home or add it to the central heating system. Regularly change the humidifier water and keep it clean to prevent mold buildup.
- Try to overcome your pressing urge to scratch the itch. Rigorous rubbing or scratching can cause further damage to your irritated skin and even raise the risk of subsequent cracks, infection, and bleeding.
- As alcohol is a known diuretic, limit its consumption to avoid dehydration.
- People tend to feel less thirsty during winter and neglect drinking water for extended periods. It is, however, equally important to maintain an optimal fluid intake during this season as any other time of the year. Thus, you must remind yourself to drink water regularly to replenish the fluids lost on account of sweating, regardless of thirst.
- Wear protective clothing such as gloves, hats, and scarves in winter to keep your skin shielded from irritants.
- Avoid wearing fabrics that tend to aggravate the itchiness of your skin. Moreover, contact with coarse clothing can worsen the itchiness and redness of your particularly sensitive dry skin.
Medications that Induce Dry Skin
There are certain medications that can contribute to making your skin increasingly dry, flaky, and itchy by stripping away its essential oils and reducing the stratum corneum’s hydrolipid levels, making it porous and leaky.
- Diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide or furosemide
- Cholesterol medications such as pravastatin and simvastatin
Treatment for Dry Skin
- Moisturizer: After assessing the extent and nature of skin dryness, your dermatologist can recommend a suitable moisturizer that may come in ointment, cream, lotion, or oil form. Regular application throughout the day can help counter the skin damage by restoring its moisture, making it soft and smooth and preventing it from cracking.
- Medicine: If your skin is extremely dry, your dermatologist may prescribe a corticosteroid or an immune modulator (tacrolimus, pimecrolimus) to alleviate the itching, inflammation, and redness that come along with dry skin.
When to See a Doctor
If small, red, raised bumps appear on your dry skin and there are signs of infection, it is recommended to see a doctor. At times, very dry skin may need a prescription ointment or cream to heal.
A dermatologist can examine the skin and rule out the possibility of any kind of infection or other medical conditions that may be causing it.
Home Remedies for Dry Skin
Under normal circumstances, to fight dry skin, you need a good quality lubricant that can help keep the skin moisturized. There are many natural ingredients that can serve well in this capacity and prove very effective for treating dry skin problems.
Here are some home remedies to fight dry skin this winter.
1. Slather Some Coconut Oil on Your Parched Skin
Coconut oil, extracted from the kernel of mature coconuts, is one of the most popular and effective treatments for dry skin during the winter months.
It contains ample amounts of fatty acids that can compensate for any loss of moisture from the skin. This natural emollient leaves your skin looking hydrated and smooth by filling in the gaps between skin cells.
A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found coconut oil to be as effective and safe as mineral oil when applied as a moisturizer.
It also contains other essential nutrients such as protein and vitamin E that further help seal moisture into your skin. Moreover, the antioxidant properties of coconut oil help combat free-radical damage that can aggravate your condition. In addition, owing to its nongreasy nature, coconut oil gets easily absorbed by the skin.
- Warm up some coconut oil in a microwave for a few seconds and apply it to your skin before bathing. Massage it gently so that the oil penetrates into the skin. Wait for 10 minutes, and then take a bath or shower. Repeat this remedy once daily.
- When suffering from extremely dry skin, you can apply the oil on your somewhat damp skin after taking a bath.
2. Apply Liberal Amounts of Honey to Relieve Skin Dryness
Honey is considered to be another nifty natural moisturizer loaded with antioxidant, antimicrobial, and humectant properties.
It helps lock in moisture to make your skin extra soft and smooth. Plus, honey contains many essential vitamins and minerals that help heal skin tissue and improve its general appearance.
The unparalleled use of honey as a vital ingredient in various run-of-the-mill moisturizers and conditioners is a testament to its skin-healing properties. For those who still doubt the effectiveness of this natural skin salve, there are relevant scientific studies that lend support to its growing popularity in the treatment of numerous skin issues.
Do any of the following once daily:
- Before taking a bath or shower, rub some raw honey all over your body and massage gently using circular motions. Wait for 10 minutes, and then take a bath or shower.
- Mix equal amounts of honey and glycerin. Apply the mixture on your hands, wait for 10 minutes, and then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of honey, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Apply the blend to your skin and let it sit for 15 minutes. Rinse it off thereafter. Do this 2–3 times a day.
3. Massage Your Dry Skin with Olive Oil
Another effective remedy for dry skin is olive oil. Olive oil contains antioxidants such as vitamin E that help neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals that damage collagen, which causes skin dryness. It also works as a great natural moisturizer.
Plus, the healthy fatty acids in it can soothe and condition dry skin all over your body.
A study published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine highlights the effectiveness of olive oil in the treatment of acute dermatitis. Dermatitis is one of the causes of dry skin and itchiness.
- For daily use, rub some lukewarm olive oil on your hands, legs, and other areas with dry skin. Massage lightly using circular motions and wait for 30 minutes. Take a shower to rinse it off, and then apply a light moisturizer.
- For weekly use, add enough olive oil to 1 tablespoon of brown sugar to make a paste. Dampen your skin, and then use this mixture as a gentle scrub. Leave it for 15 minutes, and then wash it off with lukewarm water.
4. Trust Aloe Vera to Stave Off Skin Dryness
When it comes to skin dryness, aloe vera is just the ingredient you need to make your skin soft and vibrant even during the winter season.
It acts as a wonderful moisturizer and improves your skin tone. It also relieves itchiness and prevents cracking and flaking associated with dry skin.
A study published in Skin Research and Technology reports that freeze-dried aloe vera extract exhibits potent humectant properties that can keep your skin from becoming overly dry by restoring and maintaining its moisture.
- Extract the gel from an aloe vera leaf.
- Apply it all over your body.
- Massage for a few minutes to help the gel penetrate deep into the skin.
- Wait for 30 minutes, and then rinse it off using lukewarm water.
- Do this once or twice daily.
You can also use aloe vera-based lotion or cream to fight skin dryness.
5. Whip Up an Oatmeal Bath or Mask
Oatmeal is another great healer for dry skin. It is a natural cleansing and exfoliating agent that helps relieve dryness by removing dead skin cells. This scrub will also reveal fresh layers of skin that will be able to soak in moisturizers more easily.
Plus, the protein in it helps prevent water loss and keeps the skin moisturized, adding a natural glow to the skin. It also helps soothe itching and irritated skin.
In a study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, researchers tested the skin-moisturizing properties of an oatmeal-based skin care product for dry skin and found it to be safe and effective.
Another study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology reports that colloidal oat extracts exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, which account for its effectiveness as a skin protectant lotion.
- Add 1 cup of oatmeal and a few drops of lavender oil to your bathwater and stir it thoroughly. Let your skin soak in this soothing bath for at least 15 minutes, and then rinse off with fresh water. Gently pat your skin dry and apply a light moisturizer. Enjoy this hydrating bath once a week.
- For topical application, thoroughly mix 1 tablespoon each of ground oatmeal and milk and 2 tablespoons of honey. Apply this oatmeal mask on your dry skin. Leave it on for 15 minutes, and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Do this once or twice a week.
6. Glycerin is a Savior for Dry Skin
Due to its moisturizing and humectant properties, glycerin works as a great remedy to combat skin dryness. It helps your skin absorb and retain moisture.
A 2017 study conducted on older subjects and published in the International Journal of Older People Nursing reports that skin barrier function can be improved using a regimen that entails washing your affected skin, soaking it in 2 percent glycerin, and subsequently applying petroleum jelly on it.
- Thoroughly mix equal parts of glycerin, rose water, and lemon juice.
- Apply this solution on your dry skin before going to sleep.
- The next morning, take a lukewarm shower.
- Repeat this remedy once daily.
7. Treat Your Dry Skin with Yogurt
Yogurt is another excellent kitchen ingredient that can keep your skin hydrated and fight dryness. It can even help soothe itchiness.
The lactic acid in it helps remove dead skin cells, hydrate dry patches, and restore the shine and glow to your skin. Moreover, yogurt is prized for its anti-inflammatory effect; it is especially beneficial for alleviating skin damage caused by winter-induced dryness.
A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science reports that the application of all-natural face packs with yogurt as their prime ingredient engenders a positive impact on the skin’s moisture, brightness, and elasticity.
- Apply fresh yogurt on your hands, face, and legs, and gently massage it into your skin. Leave it on for 10 minutes, and then take a bath or shower. Repeat this remedy 3 or 4 times a week.
- Alternatively, thoroughly mix 3 to 4 tablespoons of plain, unsweetened yogurt (drain the whey beforehand), ½ tablespoon of turmeric powder, and a little gram flour. Apply this paste on your face, neck, and hands. Wait for 10 minutes, and then scrub off the paste using wet fingers. Rinse off with lukewarm water and apply a light moisturizer. Use this remedy two to three times a week.
8. Use the Skin-Healing Potential of Avocado
Avocados are also a natural remedy to combat dry skin conditions. They are rich in vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects the skin from oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
Moreover, this wonder nutrient has been known to yield particularly positive results in the treatment of atopic dermatitis, a dermatological condition that causes dry and scaly skin.
Avocados are also replete with omega-3 fatty acids that easily penetrate deep into the skin to replenish its moisture, rendering your skin a smoother and rejuvenated finish.
- Scoop out the pulp of half of an avocado.
- Using a fork, mash it into a smooth paste.
- Mix in 2 teaspoons of honey.
- Spread this avocado mask generously on your skin.
- Leave it for 20 minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp washcloth and rinse your skin.
- You can do this several times a week to maintain smooth and hydrated skin.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body as well as skin well hydrated.
- When shopping for soaps and detergents, choose those that are mild and fragrance-free. Avoid those that contain deodorant and antibacterial agents as they contain harsh chemicals.
- Avoid using harsh peels and masks and alcohol-based toners or astringents on your face. Such products can strip vital oil from your skin.
- It is very important to use sunscreen daily, even during the winter months.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol, as they can dehydrate the body.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. They have always been a great help to the skin as well as in maintaining a healthy body.
- Remove flaky skin by exfoliating once a week.
- Regularly exfoliate your feet and thereafter cover them with a thick moisturizer to prevent them from cracking.
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