Season Change: Winter Dryness May Be Caused by Hidden Factors

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

Flakey dry skin from winter can leave us feeling desperate for exfoliation but be careful too much inflammation paired with harsh climates can overstimulate leaving a counterproductive effect..

If you're suffering from itchy, dry skin, chances are one of these notorious dehydrators is to blame. The general cause of itchy, dry skin might seem like a no-brainer: It's a lack of moisture. But the case isn't that cut and dried, so to speak. Some sneaky skin dehydrators lurk in surprising places. If you're looking for remedies for dry skin, check this list first to find out whether one of these offenders may be to blame for your parched skin, and find out how the experts suggest you combat these dehydrators.


Fragrance

Check ingredients labels for the word fragrance. Body lotions and creams are common items that may do more harm than good when packed with perfumes. Look for formulas that contain ingredients like honey and vanilla, and bean-based butters like cocoa and shea, for hydration that coats skin in delicious, nondrying scents.

"Fragrance has a tendency to irritate dry skin or make it worse, so avoid deodorants and skin care products that are filled with fragrance," says Amy Forman Taub, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Northwestern University.


Weather

If you're in the dead of winter of in an area of the world with high altitude and no moisture you may need to look into alternative measures to bring moisture back into your surroundings. Sometimes the air inside can be as punishing on your skin as the air outside. Forced air, especially heat, can draw humidity levels down into the single digits — making skin feel dry and itchy. A humidifier can help restore moisture to the air in your house. "Additionally, it's a good idea to keep a mild — 1 percent — hydrocortisone cream on hand. Use it early if you see signs of chapped or dry skin," says Schlessinger. Hydrocortisone is an anti-inflammatory that helps heal and soothe dry, chapped skin and speed its healing.


Soap

Nothing strips skin of moisture faster than cleansing, so carefully choosing face washes, body washes, and laundry detergents is essential for keeping skin moist and even fabric softeners if you have dry skin. Instead, look for gentle laundry soaps like All Free and Clear. Cleansing with mild clay based cleansers if oily and cream/oil based cleansers if you're dry. Considering doing aloe (without alcohol) and other gentle cleansing methods that do not disrupt the natural barrier and its pH.


Hard Water

When tap water contains a high concentration of minerals like magnesium, lead, and zinc, it's known as hard water and the minerals can leave a film on skin that causes dryness. Heavy metals turn the oils on skin into a thick substance that plugs glands, aggravates conditions like acne and rosacea, and prevents moisturizers from being absorbed into the skin. Investing in a home filtration system will lighten the mineral content of water, and adding chelators, like vitamins A and C, to skin care because they counteract the coating deposited by hard water.


Acne Medication and Retinols

The chemical exfoliants that treat acne — retinol, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide — can also dry out your skin. The good news is that you don't have to give up your skin care savers, though cutting down on their use may deliver results without irritation. Reduce the frequency of use from every day to every other day or so, make sure you choose a gentle cleanser that isn't compounding the issue, and ask your skin therapist/doctor for a less drying prescription if necessary. You can also try layering treatment products over your moisturizer, instead of underneath it, to buffer their drying side effects.

Other ingredients such as squaline and olive oil can be added in as needed to soften tissue and help aid in the healing of dry flakey skin.

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