Winter Dry Skin

Winter Dry Skin

James M Shehan, MD FAAD

February 27, 2017

Key Points: The best ways to combat the problem of dry skin involve minimizing factors that will further irritate the skin and aggressive use of moisturizers.
– First, it is important to limit the length of showers and baths, and avoid using extremely hot water.
– Hot tub and/or swimming pool usage in the winter should be limited as well.
° If you use either the hot tub or the swimming pool, it is important to rinse the chlorinated water off immediately.
– No matter what, use of moisturizers is critically important. We have found that most patients need to use these twice a day throughout the winter months.

Dry skin is a troublesome problem, particularly in the Midwest, in the winter months. Dry air in the wintertime, both inside and outside, is a major contributor to this. Also, taking longer and warmer baths and showers in the colder months of the year can further dry out the skin. Particularly as we get older our skin is more susceptible to dryness.
In most cases, those of us suffering from dry skin will have dry, flaking skin in certain areas of the body, most commonly on the back and legs. Most of the time, there are no symptoms. However sometimes the patient may experience itching, which can be quite severe. We have seen numerous patients with this problem over the years, and it seems to be particularly common at the end of the winter or near the spring when we have suffered through all of the months of winter and our skin is maximally dry.
There is good news: in most cases this condition can be easily treated. You may have heard that drinking more water is a solution. This, however, is somewhat of a misconception. The issue is not dehydration throughout the body, but rather dehydration in your skin.
As far as the moisturizers go, the heavier the moisturizer, the better it works. Ointments are best, but in most cases are far too greasy and messy to use on a regular basis. For this reason, creams tend to be the most ideal, as lotions are useful but less effective. In our practice the two moisturizers that we prefer are Vanicream and CeraVe. However there are many other products on the market which can also be beneficial. Even with regular use of moisturizers, it can sometimes take a few weeks for the dryness to subside and the itching to go away.
Perhaps the most important thing to recognize is your skin is susceptible to dryness, and this may worsen in upcoming years. For this reason, regular maintenance use of moisturizers may be of great benefit to you. If you have persistent ongoing issues with dryness and itching, please consider scheduling a visit in our clinic as you may need further evaluation and prescription treatments.