According to Dr. Rob Danoff of Discover Health, "As we age, Winter dryness becomes worse because the natural oil layer in our skin (which protects it from losing moisture) is depleted. Frequent baths or showers further removes this protective oil layer, and the cycle of winter-dry skin continues."
Even though I've turned down the thermostat in my home and limited showers to just a few minutes, using a moisturizer regularly during the dry Winter months is the best treatment. The most common cause of itchiness without a rash, according to Dr. Danoff, is dry skin. In fact, the most common symptom of dry skin is that itchy feeling, not the dry-skin flakes. Just because your skin is flaky, doesn't mean it's dry. A common example is seborrhea, a skin condition where the skin is flaky and oily, not dry.
"If your skin is itchy for no obvious reason, try using a moisturizer before visiting your health-care professional," writes Dr. Danoff. "Moisturizers add a protective oil layer to your skin and decrease the amount of moisture lost to dry air. You don't need to use fancy or expensive moisturizer. Sometimes simpler is better because 'special' added ingredients may not result in any benefit to your skin, even though the hype of the product may sound great!"
In fact, the air has been so dry that we'll be hard-pressed to squeeze any flurries or rain drops out of the sky today. So, what are some measures you can take to protect your skin during the cold and dry weather this Winter? Here are just a few:
- Lotions are good for most parts of your body, but creams are best for the really rough areas such as elbows, knees, hands and feet.
- Apply a moisturizer after you take a bath or shower. This will help keep your skin hydrated. It's often best to take a bath or shower before you go to bed. Cold dry air tends to cause the moisture on your skin to evaporate, setting up a cycle of drier skin.
- Drink plenty of water (as long as you have no fluid restrictions), not soda or caffeinated beverages.
- Avoid long showers or baths, use warm water, not hot, and try not to use scented soaps or detergents.
- Don't wear wool or other scratchy materials against your skin.
- Wear gloves when washing dishes, or if your hands are exposed to harsh chemicals.
- Consider getting a humidifier during the heating season, or use the time-proven method of keeping pots filled with water near the heating vents to increase the moisture in the air.
- Don't lick chapped lips because this will lead to even more fluid loss and more lip cracking.