It’s been cold in Hunt County in recent weeks! We’re getting a bit of a reprieve during the day now, but the nights are still cold enough to trigger the heater. And that definitely takes its toll on our dry skin. While skincare may just seem like a good beauty habit, the skin serves as an important barrier between our body and the outside world. So keeping your skin healthy actually helps keep you healthy.
It doesn’t seem like a simple change in temperature should have such an effect on skin moisture, but there are several factors that, when combined, can really dry the skin out.
- Moisture tends to condense out of cold air more than warm air, making the cool air drier. You may have heard this in high school chemistry and asked your classmate why you had to learn stuff you would never use. This is why.
- Heaters heat cold air, but they don’t add moisture to it. Just like a hair dryer or a hand dryer — products designed to dry things.
- You are probably washing your hands a lot. It’s flu season and it’s the right thing to do, but it does take its toll on the hands, stripping away protective oils. It’s a double whammy if you use a mechanical hand dryer afterwards.
- The very clothing we wear to stay warm can dry out our skin. Wool and synthetics such as fleece wick moisture away from the skin. This is great if you are in wilderness survival mode and can’t afford to have your sweat soaked cotton t-shirt turn to ice on your body. It’s not so great if you are binge-watching Netflix.
It sounds like we are doomed to dry skin in the winter. And that’s a problem because when skin becomes too dried out, it can start to crack and bleed, which creates an entry point for unwanted bacteria and other bad actors. But there are some things we can do to prevent the drying effects of the cold.
Hydrate from the inside.
Your body needs moisture to work with, so provide it by drinking plenty of water throughout your day. Keep a pitcher of water with lemon or lime on your desk to encourage yourself to drink up. However, unless you are unusually dehydrated to start with, this probably won’t have a big effect on your dry skin. You may need to take further steps to keep your skin hydrated.
Consider using a humidifier.
Just adding a little moisture while the heater runs can make a big difference to your skin. It may also help open your airways during a respiratory infection, and it can even be good for your belongings (things like wood furniture and musical instruments can dry out, too).
However, be sure to keep your humidifier clean – you don’t want to spread mold or bacteria in a warm mist throughout your home.
Step away from the shower.
Long hot showers feel so good during the cold winter. But all that very hot water strips protective oils from your skin. Take shorter, cooler showers to minimize these negative effects. And if you need to warm your bones, try a warm bath with oil added to restore your dry skin. A cup of hot tea adds just the right touch.
Keep it cotton.
Wear natural cotton next to your skin, and save the drying fleece and wool for use as outer garments. Unless you are climbing a mountain, that is. Don’t wear cotton for that.
Step up your moisturizing game.
More frequent moisturizing with a luxuriant moisturizer is called for in winter. Try to moisturize while the skin is slightly damp after washing, to hold that moisture in.
Back off on harsh skin treatments.
Exfoliating has its benefits, to be sure. But it also strips a protecting layer of skin cells and oils. It makes the tender skin it exposes even more vulnerable to the effects of drying.
Whether you love the cold weather or can’t wait for Texas summer to return, the drying effects of winter are a real concern. But you can prevent the worst of wintertime dry skin. If you have concerns about your skin, please contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our primary care providers.