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How to Combat Dry Winter Skin

Between frigid temps, harsh winds, and low humidity, winter brings a number of environmental elements that can wreak havoc on the health of your skin. Dry, cracking skin is unfortunately common during the winter months, and in addition to making you self-conscious about the state of your skin, severely dry skin can also be a constant source of discomfort and pain.

If you struggle with dry skin in the winter—also known as winter rash—you're probably desperate for lasting solutions that will help you combat and overcome these plagues on your skin. Read on for more information about the cause of your dry skin, along with tips to get this condition under control.

Causes of Dry Winter Skin

Before seeking out a treatment for your dry skin, it's important to understand how dry winter skin—sometimes called "winter itch"—may develop. In many cases, multiple factors may be causing or contributing to the development or severity of dry winter skin, including:

  • Dry air. Low humidity can suck the moisture right out of your skin. If you live in a region where low humidity is a seasonal occurrence rather than a year-round condition, the shock of dropping humidity can have a significant effect on your skin's health.

  • Exposure to cold air and/or high winds. Parts of the body exposed to the elements may develop more severe cases of dry skin than others. If you notice dry skin on your elbows and regularly have your elbows exposed when outdoors, for example, it's possible that this part of your body is experiencing more dryness because it is more exposed to the wind.

  • Use of antibacterial soaps. If you have a worse winter rash on your hands) than other parts of your body, it's possible that antibacterial soaps or other hand-washing cleansers are causing or contributing to your dry skin.

  • Poor hydration. Drinking enough water is key to skin health in any season or climate, but an insufficient intake of water can lead to dry skin in the winter due to poorly hydrated, brittle skin.

  • High stress. Stress can also cause dehydration and lead to more brittle skin that isn't able to retain water.

  • Existing skin conditions. Psoriasis and eczema, among other skin conditions, can be contributing factors to dry skin in the winter.

Why is My Skin So Dry Even When I Moisturize?

Moisturizer is a great potential treatment for dry skin, and for many people, it can alleviate or even resolve dry skin on its own. But there are many other cases where moisturizer is ineffective at treating dry skin.


Moisturizer can offer temporary relief, for example, but if the root cause of dry skin isn't resolved, moisturizer won't make a lasting impact. In many cases, you also need to identify and address these underlying causes, such as by drinking enough water, reducing your use of harsh cleaning agents, or managing skin conditions that can contribute to dry skin.

In some cases, you might also need a more powerful moisturizer, including one that contains medications or other specialized treatments for severely dry skin.

How to Stop Peeling Skin

Severe cases of dry skin can lead to peeling. This peeling can be painful and sensitive to the touch, and possibly a source of embarrassment if visible to others. If this peeling gets worse during the winter, consider the following treatment and care tips in addition to a regular skincare routine:

  • Shower in warm, not hot, water. The high heat and contrast to the dry air can shock your skin and accelerate peeling.

  • Avoid rubbing your face with towels, scrubs, or other abrasive materials. This can actually worsen peeling over time, removing young healthy skin in addition to old, peeling flakes.

  • Apply a topical anti-inflammatory ointment to offer your skin relief and encourage healing. Aloe vera can be a great topical treatment for peeling skin.

How to Create a Skin Care Routine for Dry Skin

A regular skin care routine can help you get dry skin under control, while also preventing future outbreaks. Here are some steps you may want to include in that daily routine:

  • Moisturize after washing your face and skin. While washing your skin can create a risk of increasing skin dryness, it's important to remove dead skin on your face) and other body parts to support skin health. Moisturizing right after washing will help lock in moisture and alleviate dryness.

  • Cover up when going outside. Appropriate winter clothing will protect skin from severe weather exposure, preventing dryness from developing.

  • Run a humidifier in your home. Humidifiers increase the moisture content of your home's air, combating the dryness that is often pervasive during the winter months. This can benefit your respiratory system as well as your skin.

  • Invest in gentle cleansers for your skin. Consider using cleansers that don't contain harsh chemicals—especially if your dryness is worse on your skin and/or face.

  • Moisturize or treat your skin overnight. Overnight treatments support your skin's healing and recovery from dry skin damage.

  • Use sunscreen even in the winter. You may not realize it, but the sun's rays can still damage your skin during the winter months.

If you continue to struggle with dry skin, seek out a skin care specialist that can evaluate your condition, identify its underlying causes, and recommend treatment and skin care methods that will reduce your skin's dryness and discomfort in the winter.

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