It’s that time of year again — the dry, itchy, flaky skin of winter has arrived. The dry air causes us to lose moisture in our skin. No matter if you are inside or outside, you need to cover and protect your skin as it is our first line of defense from illness and disease. If you are able to make a few changes in your daily routine, you may be able to escape that dry itchy skin this winter.
The most common culprit is taking long hot showers. Every morning we jump out of bed into that early morning shower which becomes a hot, steamy sauna. Although the warm water feels really good at the time, it is actually stripping all the natural oils from our skin, leaving it dry and cracked.
So what can we do to help prevent or decrease the loss of moisture in our skin? You can start with taking a bath instead of the early morning sauna that strips your natural oils. Try taking a bath the night before with bath oils or a mild soap like Dove, Oil of Olay or Neutrogena. Some even go to bathing every other day when possible. Always remember after your bath or shower you should apply a good moisturizing lotion immediately; this will help seal that moisture in. Some good moisturizers would be Cetaphil, Aveeno, Lubriderm, Moisturel and Eucerin Aquaphor.
If you are already to the point of the itchy skin, there are a number of helpful home treatments that can be used. Apply petroleum jelly to hands and feet, then wearing thin cotton gloves or socks to bed. This will not only help replenish moisture, but will also prevent you from scratching and damaging your skin while you sleep. Try soaking in tepid water with oatmeal such as Aveeno. Make sure your nails are cut short so if you scratch you hopefully will not tear the skin. Some may prefer to have a humidifier in their home instead to put moisture back into the room. Wear cotton or silk clothing, avoiding the already scratchy wool and acrylic materials. When washing bedding, make sure to wash in a mild detergent and run through the rinse cycle twice.
If symptoms do not improve or get worse you should see a doctor to rule out a skin condition such as eczema that can get worse in the winter months.
Information from “Healthwise Handbook a Self-Care Guide for You and Your Family,” provided by Dr. Bill Chase, M.D., UnityPoint Clinic, Norwalk.