It may seem worse in the winter, but dry, cracked, red skin isn’t just a seasonal concern.
“Although caring for our skin is particularly important in the winter months,” says RUSH dermatologist Parul Goyal, MD, “we also need to be diligent throughout the year about moisturizing.”
So, what can you do to protect your skin? Follow these five tips to help you combat dryness:
1. Start with the right soap.
Soaps can damage the skin's surface and the ability to retain water. The reason: Soaps contain surfactants, which cause that lathering we all like to see. But surfactants also rob the skin of it natural oils.
If you wash your hands frequently, use soaps that have low levels of surfactants.
2. Try not to over wash your hands.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us wash our hands more frequently, but Goyal advises against overdoing it.
“It's tough because frequent handwashing can really dry out your hands — and especially in the winter,” she says. “So, try to cut down the hand washing to when it's absolutely essential.”
For anyone whose job requires frequent hand washing, including health care professionals, it’s important to moisturize between washings.
“Every time you moisturize after washing your hands, you're restoring the natural barrier of skin."
3. Use a gentle, plain and unscented moisturizer.
Moisturizing a couple of times a day and choosing the right creams are key to keeping your skin healthy.
And Goyal recommends adding a gentle, plain and unscented moisturizer into your daily routine.
“Fragranced lotions or oils can oftentimes cause itchiness, and in some cases, can cause an allergic reaction,” she says. “So, if you're able to tolerate a plain ointment like petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or Aquaphor, these products can actually be the most helpful for dry skin.”
Goyal also suggests checking the product’s ingredient label for ceramides, as they are essentially the glue that holds our skin cells together to keep our skin barrier intact and healthy.
4. Adjust your bathing habits.
While many of us may enjoy a hot, soothing shower every once in a while, Goyal recommends adjusting your bathing water to lukewarm or cool temperatures.
“The hotter the water, the dryer your skin is going to get after exposure to that moisture,” she says. “The cooler the water, the better overall for retaining moisture in your skin.”
She adds that minimizing the time you spend in the bath (ideally less than 10 minutes), not scrubbing too hard and moisturizing afterward are good bathing habits to add to your routine.
5. Add moisture to the air with a humidifier
To help alleviate dry, itchy skin and retain moisture, try placing a humidifier in your room.
When to see a doctor
If you've tried all the right creams and at-home remedies, and nothing improves, it’s time to see a dermatologist.
“I always tell my patients that you should use what is working best for your skin,” Goyal says. “But if the condition of your skin starts causing a lot of itchiness or you notice cracking and scaling, it’s important to reach out for help.”
For more information or to make an appointment with a dermatologist, visit us via RUSH Dermatology.