Jan 06, 2022, 2:45pmUpdated 3d ago
As we enter the dead of winter, the cold, low humidity, mask wearing and handwashing can wreak havoc on our skin.
“Soap and warm water may keep hands germ-free — which is critical for preventing the spread of COVID-19 — but they also strip the naturally occurring moisture and oils in your skin, causing it to dry out and crack,” says Dermatologist Dr. Nika Finelt.
There are many things you can do to help soothe winter dry skin and help it stay healthy. Here are some tips:
1. FRAGRANCE FREE
Choose a soap that’s fragrance free. Frequent use of hand cleansers or alcohol-based hand sanitizers may cause hand dermatitis, or hand eczemas. Sometimes the red, itchy rash is an allergic reaction to ingredients in the products. So a good plan is to avoid any fragranced products, as they’re often the culprits causing allergic dermatitis.
2. STAY WARM, NOT HOT
Everyone loves a long, hot shower in the winter. But hot water strips the skin of natural moisture that keeps it healthy, hydrated and protected. Take a short, lukewarm shower instead to avoid irritating the skin. If your skin appears red following a shower or bath, your water temperature is too hot.
3. MOISTURIZE HANDS
After hand-washing and patting your hands dry, moisturize with a bland hand cream, avoiding irritants like fragrances, and choosing creams and ointments over lotions for deeper absorption. It’s important to moisturize whenever your hands feel dry, and even when they don’t. Especially during this pandemic, preventive skin care is key as dry, cracked skin makes it easier for bacteria and other germs to get inside the body.
You can minimize the drying effects by removing rings and other jewelry before bedtime. Certain zones on our hands, such as by our rings, are where soap residue may have longer contact with the skin, creating more irritation in those areas. Be sure to rinse any remaining cleansing products from your hands and apply a bland moisturizer after, such as plain petroleum jelly. For really dry and cracked skin, you may want to seal in the moisture by covering your heavily moisturized hands with cotton gloves overnight to allow the hands to heal.
4. MOISTURIZE AFTER SHOWER
Ceramides are naturally found in skin but can be regularly disrupted by factors like the environment and daily activities, leading to dry skin. Skin health experts recommend you to keep a tub of a ceramide-rich cream in your bathroom to slather on while your skin is still wet after showering to really seal in moisture and help restore the skin’s protective barrier.
5. BUNDLE UP
When you’re heading outside, be sure to bundle up! Always wear gear that protects your skin from the elements, like hats, scarves and gloves. Additionally, while winter makes us more inclined to bundle up in cozy sweaters, avoid any materials that may irritate your skin. If you feel itchy under your favorite wool sweater, wear a breathable shirt underneath or consider swapping it for a different material, like fleece or cashmere.
6. MAXIMIZE MOISTURE
The colder winter air pulls moisture from the skin leaving it dry, itchy and lackluster, and heading indoors isn’t helping. The rising thermostat in your house causes dry air that sucks hydration from your skin. Use a humidifier to add moisture back into the air in main spaces, like your bedroom. You should also be sure to adapt your skin care routine for the winter just like you would your wardrobe. Swap your light creams out for richer products that will add the extra moisturization needed during the winter and be sure to use them twice daily.
7. DRINK UP
Another way to hydrate yourself is by moisturizing yourself from the inside out by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Warm tea is another great way to get hydrated while comforting yourself during the colder months.
8. KEEP YOUR MASK CLEAN
There’s strong evidence that face coverings really can and do save lives, so skin irritation from frequent face mask usage is a small price to pay to prevent the spread of the virus. The good news is there are simple ways to prevent “maskne,” such as keeping your mask clean and avoiding use of any greasy products underneath the mask. All facial moisturizers should be oil free and non-comedogenic (don’t clog pores) to avoid acne development.
If using cloth masks, they should be laundered with fragrance free detergent, and avoid fabric softener or dryer sheets. Also, try not to pick at any blemishes or touch your face.