Oh boy, it’s cold outside and I’m seeing a lot of chapped skin in my dermatology practice.
Even our relatively temperate winter here in Northern California is hard on your skin – if you live somewhere that has a “real” winter (like in this photo), then your skin is even more vulnerable to winter chapping.
Preventing chapped skin and treating chapped skin is actually easy. There are 3 simple tricks. Do them every day and you’ll make it through the winter without skin that’s itchy, painful, cracked, dry, scaly, sensitive … and chapped.
What are the 3 essential tricks to preventing and treating chapped winter skin?
- Moisturize every day
- Use only gentle soaps on your skin
- Protect your skin from harsh, cold weather
That’s it. Yep, really!
Now, there are some key details to help you do this right so that it works.
First, moisturizing every day means applying moisturizer only after water contact.
Putting moisturizer on skin that didn’t just get wet is useless. Moisturizers trap water but they don’t add water. You do that when you wet your skin in the shower or when you wash your hands, face, etc. You have to trap that added water and you do that by applying a rich moisturizer within a few minutes after toweling the excess skin surface water off.
You also need a rich moisturizer for winter. This means one that includes some oils and water binding ingredients. My absolute favorites for winter skin care are my All Natural Body and Face Butter Cream and my All Natural Face and Body Lotion. I love these new products and they’re the hydrating heroes for my sensitive skin this winter.
Other options include VaniCream, which like my Natural Butter and Lotion, is also hypoallergenic. Alternatively, you could use jojoba oil, olive oil, shea butter, or one of the good old standard dermatologic moisturizers such as Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream, Eucerin Original Healing Creme, or Nivea Cream. These brands also make thinner lotion products, but for winter you want a thick and rich product.
Hand moisturizers need to be applied multiple times during the day since you you wash your hands repeatedly. Keep a practical, non-greasy moisturizer by your sinks so that you apply it many times a day. This will make a huge difference. My absolute favorite is my Dry Skin Hand Cream; I keep a tube in my lab coat and it saves my winter hands.
Don’t forget your lips. Apply a simple, but long-lasting, moisturizing lip balm all day long. My favorite is Ceralip. Pick a lip balm with simple ingredients because many “healing” lip balms contain ingredients that can cause allergic reactions that mimic chapped lips.
Use only gentle soaps and skin cleansers during the winter. Many soaps are harsh, pulling out too many of your skin’s natural oils during the winter. Use a syndet (synthetic detergent) such as unscented Dove soap, Cetaphil, Aquanil Cleansers, or Toleriane Cleanser. If you want natural skin care, try a glycerin bar soap or a naturally saponified soap made by a master soap maker who knows how to remove excess alkali such as my Naturally Best Bar Soap for Dry Skin. For your hands, use a foaming cleanser that rinses off thoroughly such as Vermont Foaming Hand Soap.
Lastly, protect your skin from the harsh and drying cold weather by wearing mufflers, face masks, and gloves when you are outside. Remember heated indoor air is also drying, so stay moisturized. Consider using a humidifier if your skin is still dry; it can be miraculous, as one dry skin eczema patient of mine demonstrated last week. She added an indoor humidifier and her skin is so much better.
Photo Attribution: Thanks and Gratitude to Pixitart