I don't know about you, but I have dry skin 365 days a year. But in winter, I feel like it's doubly bad. The dry weather, the forced air heat everywhere you go, the harsh wind on your face and hands all add up to a dry, itchy mess. Fortunately, I've picked up some tips to help alleviate or eliminate the problem. Turns out, knowing how to cure itchy winter skin isn't too tough and might include some ideas you haven't thought about before.
When it comes to dry skin, the old adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is absolutely true. According to the American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD), dry skin is easier to prevent than to treat. Doing things like taking warm instead of hot showers (while limiting their duration), using unscented body products, and making sure you're well hydrated all go a long way in preventing the dreaded winter itch. If you do find yourself suffering, the AAD suggested that you stick with ointments and creams as opposed to traditional lotions you might use in the summer months, as they provide a deeper level of moisture. Also, apply that cream directly after coming out of the shower to lock in the moisture on your skin.
Why do you get such dry skin in the winter? According to a study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, dry skin is cyclical, and highly affected by the weather and personal biology. You see, the layers of the skin are made up of different complex structures serving different purposes. While they must be fairly impenetrable, a small amount of water must be shed via the skin for waste and cooling purposes. The outer stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis, consists of mostly dead skin cells that shed off at regular intervals, but with varying degrees of irritation.
The irritation comes when the inner stratum corneum, which looks like a cubical lattice work of cells, begins edging up at the corners, noted the journal. This layer is made up of different chains of fatty acids, or lipids, and they serve to protect the skin from becoming irritated and protect the deeper layers of skin and the rest of your body from the outside. When the hydration cycle is disrupted by biology or exterior influences like the weather or perfumes, the delicate balance goes awry, causing irritation like that you see in the winter.
I spoke to esthetician Joni Borshchizer of Brooklyn, New York and asked her about some possible cures for itchy winter skin. She tells Romper, "You need to get a really good lotion with alpha hydroxy acid in it, and put it on right away after you bathe." She suggests Eucerin Intesive Repair ($10, Target). These acids work with the moisturizer in the lotion to eliminate the peeling skin and work the moisture down deep.
Joni also suggests the use of a humidifier. These inexpensive appliances help keep the air in your home or office moist and comfortable, decreasing the irritation of winter on your skin. This should be used in combination with drinking plenty of water, and she notes, "Add some lemon or berry to your water. Those antioxidants help keep your skin glowing and fresh in the harshest conditions."
After you've done all of this, the cool shower, the lotion, the drinking, think about layering up with a protective barrier like petroleum jelly or Aquaphor if your skin is really dry. "It will give your skin a barrier between it and the cold wind." Joni notes that protection is key in the battle against the winter itch, and that if you are religious in your routine, you can prevent much of what ails your skin during the cold winter months.
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