Several factors combine to cause problems for skin in the cold winter months. First of all, colder temperatures and low humidity levels lead to dry skin. Humidity levels indoors are further compromised by forced air heating systems, which leave your home environment drier than ever. Then, the hot showers or baths you may take to restore warmth to your chilled bones dries out your skin even more. To top it off, clothing that makes your skin itchy (wool sweaters come to mind) only make matters worse, irritating skin that is already susceptible to problems.
Allergy sufferers may be particularly affected by the environmental factors that contribute to dry skin in the wintertime. Frequently, allergy sufferers are more likely to have problems with eczema, a condition in which the immune system overreacts to allergens, causing inflammation. The condition is characterized by dry, red, itchy skin, and in severe manifestations, may also cause the skin to flake, blister, ooze, and bleed. Its no surprise that skin irritation resulting from cold weather conditions often leads to eczema flare-ups.
Following are five simple tactics to help you keep the itch out of winter:
1. Use warm, not hot, water to shower and bathe.
Water thats too hot in your shower or bath, especially if you wash frequently, breaks down the lipid barriers in your skin, leading to dry skin. Do your best to limit the amount of time you spend in the shower or tub, and keep water as close to lukewarm as possible. This applies to hand-washing as well.
2. Moisturize after showers or hand-washing.
Anyone thats ever had even mildly dry skin is familiar with moisturizing, and maybe has even tried an array of moisturizing products that either dont work well, or worse yet, seem to exacerbate the problem. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the key to proper moisturizing is to moisturize when the skin is still damp a time when you may not think about it because your skin feels temporarily relieved from its contact with water. However, moisturizing dry skin is simply not as effective as applying lotions when your skin is still damp from a shower or bath. This is because moisturizer works by behaving like a seal over your skin that helps keep moisture from escaping. Applying while skin is damp, after a gentle pat-down with a towel, helps trap water in surface cells.
Secondly, it is very important, especially for individuals with sensitive skin, to stay away from moisturizers that contain harsh fragrances and other chemicals that can actually further irritate the skin.
Use fragrance-free formulas such as Vanicream Skin Cream, a dermatologist recommended hypoallergenic moisturizing cream specially formulated for people with sensitive skin. For those who prefer a lighter lotion, Vanicream Lite Lotion provides the same moisturizing power without chemicals and fragrances with a thinner application that can be used all over the body and on the face, too.
3. Ditch the harsh soaps.
In order to avoid irritating skin that may already be prone to dryness, make sure that your soaps are not contributing to the problem. The Mayo Clinic recommends, If you have dry skin, it's best to use cleansing creams or gentle skin cleansers and bath or shower gels with added moisturizers and offers a good way to tell if your soap is alright: A good rule of thumb is that your skin should feel soft and smooth after cleansing, never tight or dry. Dermatologist favorite, Vanicream, offers some excellent choices in soap that will never leave your skin tight or dry: Free and Clear Liquid Cleanser contains no chemicals, fragrances, or oils that can irritate the skin of sensitive individuals, and it can be used all over the body and face. For those who prefer a more traditional bar soap, the Vanicream Cleansing Bar soothes skin with its moisturizing formula, equally free of dyes, chemicals, and other irritants.
4. Humidify your home.
One of the biggest factors leading to dry skin is dry indoor air. As Barney Kenet, MD, a dermatologist from New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center, puts it, "Dry air is probably the most common cause of dry skin, especially during the winter. It draws the moisture right out of the skin." WebMD, in Whats Causing Your Dry Skin Problem, enumerates, While cold, harsh weather does dry your skin, the biggest problem in the winter lies indoors the dry heat churned out by your furnace.
While turning down the thermostat can help a little bit, this solution only goes so far. The best bet is to add some moisture back to your indoor air through the use of a humidifier. Choose from a table top humidifier like the Germ Guardian Ultrasonic Table Top Humidifier, which is perfect for personal zones of humidification like near your bedside or at the office, or from more sophisticated models like the Enviracaire EWM-350 Warm Mist Humidifier with UV Light, which features an exclusive germicidal process, automatic shut-off when desired humidity levels are reached, up to a 32-hour run time, and more.
5. Don't use fabrics that irritate your skin.
Contact irritation from clothing, such as an itchy wool sweater, can also contribute to dry skin problems. Dont wear clothes that make you itchy or uncomfortable, especially if they are directly against your skin. And dont forget about your bedding! Organic bedding can go a long way in relieving some nighttime skin irritation that you may not even be aware is occurring. Especially for those who suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, organic bedding, such as Organic Cotton Blankets, Coyuchi Organic Cotton Sheets, and Allergy Armor Organic dust mite encasings, keeps skin from reacting to the dyes and other chemicals frequently found in bedding and other fabrics.