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young girl moisturizing her skin

Tips for healing dry winter skin

young girl moisturizing her skin

Don’t let dry skin stop winter fun

There’s a lot that makes this time of year great. Some of us like to bundle up and enjoy an oyster roast. Others want to read a book by the fire. Whether you enjoy the great outdoors or staying cozy inside, winter weather can take a toll on your skin.

“It’s common for people to experience dry winter skin. It’s cold outside, and the air lacks the moisture our skin needs to stay healthy. It’s important to have a skin care plan that responds well to harsh winter elements,” says Dr. Lee Yarbrough, a dermatologist with Charleston Dermatology.

The causes of dry winter skin  

Your skin produces natural oils to stay hydrated. Even though your skin makes its own protection, winter weather may break it down. How does that happen?

You may be surprised to know that many of the causes of dry winter skin are part of your daily routine. The most common reasons your skin suffers during the season are:

  • Exposing your skin to dry winter air. On a hot and humid day, there’s moisture in the air that supports skin health. But in the winter, the cold, dry air pulls the moisture from the skin. These elements cause the skin to feel dehydrated.
  • Turning on the heat. During the cold winter months, you turn on the heat to stay warm and this winter has lasted longer than most. That heat draws moisture out of the air. As you raise the temperature, the air gets drier — and so does your skin. That’s because higher heat makes it hard for your skin to stay hydrated.
  • Washing hands even more frequently and using sanitizers. The pandemic has us more conscious than ever about washing our hands.Washing or scrubbing peels the layers off your skin. Without those layers, your skin gets dry. Using sanitizers protects against germs but can dry out your skin.

Signs of dry winter skin

Dry winter skin may have a variety of symptoms. Know the signs to look for:

  • ● Fine lines become much more obvious.
  • ● Skin is flaky and itchy.
  • ● Scratching makes the skin cracked and raw.
  • ● Red patches appear that look like a rash.   

Dr. Yarabrough says that dry winter skin with open sores can lead to a bacterial infection. Watch for things like swelling or yellow crusts on your skin. If your dry skin doesn’t improve, call your doctor.

How to treat dry winter skin 

Making simple changes to your routine can soothe dry winter skin. Here are some of the best ways to treat and protect dry skin in the winter:

  • Use a humidifier to moisturize the air. These systems put steam in the air to create humidity. The moisture in the air will help protect your skin.
  • Try a different moisturizer. Look for thicker creams and ointments that promote hydration. After washing, pat your skin dry and apply your moisturizer.
  • Use gloves to seal in moisture. For dehydrated skin, try wearing gloves after you moisturize. Gloves create a barrier between your skin and the outside elements. 
  • Avoid using hot water. Wash your hands or shower with warm water. If using hot water, keep showers short. Washing with hot water removes those essential oils from your skin.
  • Use fragrance-free soap. The chemicals that create scents in your soap can irritate dry skin. Use unscented soaps or ones with added moisturizers. Get more tips and product suggestions from a Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated dermatologist.
  • Lower the heat. Consider lowering the thermostat to keep inside air from getting too dry for your skin.
  • Drink lots of water. Hydration helps your body flush out toxins. Skin that’s well-hydrated is healthy and bright.

When to see a doctor

Roper St. Francis Healthcare wants you to enjoy winter while keeping your skin healthy. If home remedies don’t heal your dry skin or you develop an infection, see a doctor.

To learn more or to make an appointment, visit or call (843) 402-CARE.

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