Expert Tips for Surviving Dry Skin Season

Pump Up Hydration on Dry Skin

As soon as the indoor heat powers on, dry skin symptoms crop up. Painfully parched hands, scaly skin, foot calluses, and rough patches of eczema are just a few of the most common issues that plague skin when humidity levels drop in the fall and winter. The good news is that there’s no reason you have to suffer or feel irritated all season long – with these easy tips and tricks straight from top experts, you can find relief and enjoy comfortable skin ASAP. Here’s how.

Skip Soap on Itchy Skin

Areas like the arms and legs can get stubbornly itchy with dryness, and the culprit is likely the way you suds up in the shower. Your face, underarms, feet, and groin produce oils much more abundantly than your legs and arms do, so those sweatier parts could certainly use a daily soaping to stay fresh and clean. “On the other hand, soaping your arms and legs every day strips what little precious natural oils you have in these areas, and isn’t necessary,” says Neal Schultz, MD, a New York City dermatologist. “The run-off you get from your shampoo and cleansing other areas is sufficient for your arms and legs – which you can soap a couple times a week.”

When do you decide to target your arms and legs, opt for a hydrating body wash instead of a bar to help retain more moisture. Refrain from using heavily fragranced soaps and body lotions that can irritate dry skin and make it itch more. Try Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash, which uses NutriumMoisture, a combination of stearic acid, a lipid found in the skin; glycerin, a humectant that seals in moisture; and soybean oil, a complexion-quencher that can also increase elasticity in your skin, and immediately apply a moisturizer once you step out of the shower.

Treat Flaky Skin Like Dandruff

Irritation from frequently blowing your nose and exposing your face to chilling outdoor cold and wind can worsen pesky flakes that form around the folds of your nose this time of year. And if you’ve tried to treat this area before, you know that no amount of moisturizer seems to rid the flakes. That’s because flakes around the nose (as well as in the eyebrow folds) aren’t usually just dry skin, but rather a form of the same dandruff condition that happens on the scalp. “Instead of using a moisturizer, look for an over-the-counter dandruff shampoo with an active ingredient of salicylic acid, zinc, tar, or selenium, and use it in your scalp as well as to cleanse any areas of your face with stubborn flakes,” advises Dr. Shultz. Try Aveeno Nourish + Dandruff Control Shampoo with zinc, hydrating peptides, and glycerin, and leave it on for a minute or two before rinsing off.

When applying shampoo, use gentle circular movements to massage the active ingredient into skin and to exfoliate dead cell flakes off. Be sure not to scratch, as that can actually stimulate the fungus and worsen dandruff. If the flakes don’t improve, see a dermatologist who will likely prescribe a cortisone cream to treat skin.

Hydrate Dishwater Hands

Hand washing increases in the cold weather months, when many of us are trying to curb the spread of germs and the flu. Add this to regular household chores like dishwashing, and you're left with hands that constantly look and feel dry. The best way to break the vicious cycle is by keeping a hand cream with you that contains ultra-moisturizing ingredients. Use it on damp skin after every hand wash for the best hydration retention. “The richest moisturizers have ingredients like glycerin, ceramides, essential fatty acids, shea butter, and steric acids,” explains Brian Zelickson, MD, a Minneapolis dermatologist.

Try CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream with ceramides and fatty acids, or Dr. Hauschka Hydrating Hand Cream, which leaves hands soft with glycerin and essential oils. For a deeper overnight treatment, slather your hands with moisturizer and put cotton gloves on to help hydration sink deeply into skin. Hot water temperatures are the worst enemy of dry hands, warns Dr. Zelickson – so turning down the heat even a little bit will help your hands retain more moisture while washing.

Eczema Needs Extra Care

Dry areas turn into eczema when patches of skin become rough and inflamed, and may even itch or blister in some cases. If you’ve had eczema in a certain spot before, it’s very likely that the same area will be susceptible to showing symptoms again when your skin gets dry. It’s a signal that you need to significantly step up your hydration habits. “Typically, moisturizers that come in pump bottles are lighter lotions that are less hydrating than creams, so I advise my patients to choose a moisturizer that comes in a tub or a tube instead,” says Rebecca Kazin, MD, a dermatologist at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery and part of the faculty at John Hopkins Dermatology. Making the change at the first sign of dry skin can help prevent eczema spots from returning. Try applying Aquaphor Healing Ointment, which uses petrolatum and glycerin to heal cracked and dry skin, to especially parched patches.

Additionally, treatment products with potentially drying ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and retinol or prescription tretinoin should be strictly avoided where eczema is present, says Dr. Kazin. Advanced cases that blister, bleed, or don’t respond to basic at-home treatment should be seen by a dermatologist who can prescribe a cortisone cream to help get eczema under control.

Conquer Calluses With Acids

When skin is rubbed against repeatedly, it thickens as a way to protect itself. Layers of skin that compact under pressure lead to the hardened formation of tissue known as a callus, which usually appears on your feet. “Therefore, foot calluses aren’t really a symptom of dry skin, but of shoes that don’t fit correctly and rub against your feet,” explains Schultz. And since your feet will most likely be stuck in winter boots all season, using a moisturizing lotion with a high 15 or 20 percent glycolic acid content will help smooth down calluses that may develop. You can also try a foot pad like Dr. Scholl’s Extra- Thick Callus Removers with salicylic acid. “If you use the foot pads, just wear them overnight so that they don’t add pressure to any rubbing your foot encounters during the day,” advises Schultz.

In some cases, what you think is a callus is really a fungal infection. Symptoms of an infection are a white powdery finish in the lines on your feet as well as a thickening of skin that crawls up the back of the heel. “Over-the-counter Lotrimin can help clear up a fungal infection of this kind,” says Schultz.

Tight Skin Means It’s Time to Change Things Up

If your skin feels like it’s one size too small, you’re likely using products that are drying out the surface layer. “Sometimes the cleansers we use in the spring and summer are simply too drying for fall and winter,” says Kazin. Switch to a non-foaming cream cleanser like MD Complete Anti-Aging Restoring Cleanser that will gently cleanse while retaining moisture with essential fatty acids, aloe vera, and chamomile. Avoid dehydrating cleansers that contain glycolic or salicylic acid. And if you wash your face twice a day, switch to just once at night to prevent unnecessary moisture loss. In the morning, gently run a warm, wet washcloth over your skin to quickly refresh.

After cleansing, pat – don’t rub – your skin with a clean cotton washcloth and immediately apply moisturizer to lock in hydration. And be aware of how your diet may be affecting the comfort level of your skin. “Salty foods and not enough fluid intake can make your skin feel dry, as well as certain medications like diuretics used for high blood pressure,” says Zelickson. In addition to drinking more water, try adding extra water-rich foods to your diet, like leafy greens, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, and strawberries.

Relieve Redness With Simple Ingredients

Skin flushed in redness can be bothersome and even embarrassing when it doesn’t fade. According to Kazin, crimson skin that appears only in the very dry and cold weather is typically a form of eczema or dermatitis. People who don’t otherwise have a history of either condition in normal circumstances can easily still fall prey. (Rosacea, on the other hand, is another flushing skin condition that is usually genetic and occurs year-round). “The redness signals that the skin barrier is compromised and that skin is more sensitive now to allergens and irritants that otherwise wouldn’t bother you,” explains Kazin.

Important parts of the barrier are made up of ceramides and lipids, so these are the ingredients you should look for in cleansers. To moisturize, use humectants to draw in hydration and emollients to retain it. Try adding a hypoallergenic hydrator to your routine with both ingredients, like Simple Nourishing 24Hr Day/Night Cream. It may be helpful to keep products like this on hand when temperatures dip and your skin tends toward redness, and switch them in until conditions subside. Avoiding fragranced formulas and treatment ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and retinol is essential until skin returns to normal, says Kazin.

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