You can blame your scratchy wool sweater for your non-stop itching, but chances are, dry skin is the true culprit. When winter settles in, humidity—which normally helps your skin stay moist—drops. That dry air, paired with chapping winds, can leave skin not only parched, but dull, irritated and slower to heal. And one look at your cracked soles tells you it’s not just your exposed body parts that are affected by the elements.
One go-to solution for keeping skin hydrated is to use a humidifier in your home or office. Eating a diet rich in omega-3s can also help, as the fatty acids nourish your skin from the inside-out. But you may need more to protect your skin and restore its suppleness this season.
Dry Arms and Legs
Your skin may feel tight and rough to the touch. It may even begin to flake. You might notice some ashiness, particularly on your elbows.
Prevent It: A toasty home may be a nice respite from bitter outdoor temperatures, but heat can sap additional moisture from the air. Resist the urge to dial up the thermostat. The same goes for the shower faucet: Very hot water breaks down lipids, which are your skin’s natural moisturizing oils. Opt for lukewarm water and use a high-emollient body wash, which can help trap water in skin.
Soothe It: Gently exfoliate your skin in the shower, then slather on a moisturizer; reapply later in the day. You may want to consider a cream, which tends to be thicker and richer than a lotion. Certain ingredients can be of particular help: Shea butter and vitamin E do a great job of hydrating thirsty skin. Glycerin (glycerol) is a humectant, a molecule that helps draw what moisture is in the air into your skin. Hyaluronic acid keeps moisture locked in your skin. (Many facial moisturizers and serums contain some of these ingredients too, if a dry complexion is also of concern.)
Shoes may make it easy to hide cracked heels, but the discomfort isn’t easy to ignore. In addition, wearing warm boots can cause feet to sweat, leaving skin even more depleted as the moisture that forms evaporates.
Prevent It: Use a metal foot file, pumice stone or a grainy foot scrub to slough off any beginnings of rough skin. To keep moisture in, apply a thick cream with emollients after bathing. You may also consider wearing “moisturizing socks” to bed. They keep your feet continuously hydrated throughout the night.
Soothe It: If your heels are already cracked, try applying cream with salicylic acid every night. Research shows the ingredient reduces dryness, scaling and thickening of heel skin, as well as associated pain.
Beyond the havoc it can wreak on a lipstick application, chapped lips can also be quite uncomfortable. Since lips don’t have oil glands, they are more vulnerable to dryness than other areas.
Prevent It: Wear lip balm with sunscreen every day. Sun exposure can damage the delicate skin on lips, even in winter. Add another barrier of protection on extra-windy days by wrapping a scarf around your neck so that it covers your mouth too. Lip-lickers beware: Saliva evaporates quickly, leaving your lips drier each time you smack.
Soothe It: Avoid waxy sticks that don’t penetrate the skin. Instead, use a petroleum- or oil-based balm that will soak into cracks and keep lips soft and supple.