Dry skin may seem like a simple enough issue at the surface, but without proper care, it is easy to experience severe symptoms during the winter.
According to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, dry skin occurs when the outermost layer of skin (known as the stratum corneum) no longer contains enough water to function properly. When this layer of skin becomes dehydrated enough, it shrinks and small cracks can appear on the skin, exposing the cells beneath the top layer to irritants and germs.
Dry skin is more common during the winter months than the summer months, according to the American Osteopathic Association.
“During the summer months, humid air helps to moisturize the skin, and the nourishing minerals in vitamin D are more easily accessible because of the vast amount of sunlight.” Dr. Robert A. Norman, osteopathic physician and dermatologist from Tampa, Florida, said in a AOA release. “People also tend to drink more fluids in the warmer months, an important component of healthy skin, because of heat and increased activity.”
According to UI Hospitals and Clinics, dry skin has a number of serious effects. One of the most common symptoms is itchy skin. Continuous itching and scratching can cause lichenification, or thickened calloused patches of skin. Dry skin can also result in inflammation known as dermatitis and itchy, scaly patches of skin known as eczema.
If your skin is severely cracked and yellow crusts or pus appears in the affected area, a bacterial infection has likely developed as a result of damaged skin. To combat this, it is highly recommended to see a dermatologist or physician to begin a course of antibiotic therapy.
According to Norman, there are several steps you can take to maintain healthy skin. First, he recommends avoiding long, hot showers and baths because they will break down the protective oil in your skin and cause moisture loss. Norman also recommends exfoliating to get rid of dead skin cells, using the proper moisturizer for your skin type and not picking at dry skin. Additionally, he recommends using a humidifier in your room to put moisture back into the air and drinking enough water to remain properly hydrated. While these changes will most likely be helpful, results won’t be immediate.
“Skin needs time to adapt to new routines, so don’t expect drastic changes overnight,” Norman said. “Start following these tips early, and your skin will thank you this winter season.”
According to UI Healths and Clinics, facial and body are the two basic types of moisturizers. There are also four basic classes of body moisturizers: ointment, oil, cream and lotion.
Ointment moisturizers, such as petroleum jelly, are the most effective at moisturizing dry skin, but also leave an oily residue on the skin. Oil moisturizers, such as baby oil or bath oil, are less greasy but still helpful for dry skin. Cream moisturizers will disappear without a residue when rubbed into your skin, and lotions are suspensions of moisturizers in alcohol and water.
For facial moisturizing, Healthline recommends face lotions with an SPF of at least 30 to protect your skin from both dryness and damage from the sun’s rays. Rank and Style recommends the use of overnight facial masks and moisturizers, as those work longer to provide skin rejuvenation at a deeper level of skin.
Dry skin can cause a myriad of issues if left unchecked, but keeping your skin happy and healthy is a matter of proper moisturization.