Top Tips from a Dermatologist for Treating Dry Skin

Dry skin can occur during any season, but when there’s no humidity in the air in the winter, it becomes uncomfortable and itchy.

“Cold and dry winter conditions typically dehydrate skin by drawing moisture out of the superficial layers and into the air, sometimes causing the skin to dry and crack,” explains Dr. Rachel Nazarian from Schweiger Dermatology Group on the Upper West Side and Murray Hill.

“Basically, the air has less moisture during the winter, so it steals more moisture from our skin to compensate.”

Also, forced heating inside can steal even more moisture from the air, leaving you with skin that’s itchy, dry, and flaky.

How to treat dry skin at home takes a little knowledge. Here are the top tips from our dermatologists on how to deal with dry and itchy skin in the wintertime.

  1. Add Humidity

    When the humidity in the air decreases, it’s time to invest in a humidifier. Regular humidifier use will add the necessary moisture back into the air and your skin. Find out about the best humidifiers available near you and which one fits your lifestyle.

  2. Cut Down on Cleansing

    During the wintertime, you can wash your face only once a day–in the evening. In the morning, it is best just to rinse your face with a splash of cold water.

    For a gentler approach to cleansing, try swapping your lathering cleanser for a creamy cleanser.

    For your body, avoid harsh bar soaps loaded with detergents and fragrances, which can irritate the skin. Instead, choose a mild, gentle soap, such as the white Dove Beauty Bar, which is made with a healthy dose of moisturizing cream.

  3. Warm, Not Hot

    Always keep your showers and baths lukewarm instead of hot in the winter.

    “Hot water strips natural oils and hydration from the skin, which makes it easier for skin to lose water into the atmosphere,” says Dr. Nazarian.

    Also, close the door when you’re taking a bath or shower to trap the steam in the bathroom so your skin can soak it in.

  4. Apply Moisturizer When Skin is Damp

    Don’t wait until the skin is dry to apply moisturizer.

    “Product absorption through the skin is maximized when the skin is slightly damp,” explains Dr. Nazarian.

    The best time to apply moisturizers like creams or lotions is immediately following a shower when you gently towel off excess water. But the window is short, warns Dr. Nazarian. It’s best to apply moisturizers and products within 10 minutes of showering to trap water molecules into the skin.

  5. Read Skincare Ingredients

    Instead of buying a lotion or cream claiming to “heal dry skin,” be sure to check and see if it has a proven hydrating ingredient, such as ceramides, glycerin, shea butter, or stearic acid, lactic acid, dimethicone, urea or mineral oil.

    If your skin is dry, find an oil-based cream or lotion. And if you have sensitive skin, it’s best to use products with glycerin, as the other ingredients may cause a burning sensation on irritated skin.

    You’ll also want to discontinue any moisturizers that contain alcohol or fragrances, which can exacerbate dry skin.

    Schweiger Dermatology Group’s Dr. Michele Farber adds, “Switch to a heavier cream, especially if you are prone to dry skin, and don’t forget to moisturize your body too. This means choosing a cream rather than a lotion. And don’t forget the SPF in your morning routine even in colder months.”

  6. Swap out your moisturizer for a winter-friendly formula

    Not all moisturizers are created equal. Good moisturizers will have a healthy mix of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. This combination ensures that your outer layer of skin, as well as the lipid matrix that supports it, are both equally nourished.

    Anyone with a history of eczema and chronically dry skin will benefit from paying attention to what is in their moisturizer:

    • Linoleic acid
    • Sphingolipids
    • Sterols
    • Phospholipids
    • Stearic acid
    • Oleic acid

    We recommend CeraVe, Eucerin Advanced Repair, and Aveeno Skin Relief Moisture Repair.

  7. Lips Get Dry, Too

    Keep a lip balm close at hand at all times. The best way to treat dry and cracked lips is with a lip balm that will seep into your lips.

    Our dermatologists swear by Vaseline and Aquaphor as tried and true products for lip hydration.

    “Aquaphor and Vaseline are easy products to use to prevent hydration evaporation,” says Dr. Nazarian.

  8. Pay Attention to Nails

    “Nails have the potential for damage thanks to manicures, acetone, and even saliva for people who bite their nails and destroy the nail plate,” says Dr. Nazarian.

    Practice good nail and hand habits, which include twice daily moisturizing with a ceramide-based cream, applying a barrier repair emollient to prevent moisture loss during less humid months, and avoiding over-washing.

  9. Follow a healthy diet

    The building blocks for healthy hair, skin, and nails include varying degrees of proteins, fats, and vitamins.

    Dr. Nazarian tells her patients to follow a diet that includes “healthy fats” such as olive oil, avocados, salmon, a daily multi-vitamin, proteins, and at least half a liter of water.

    “Hydration levels and water intake can change day-to-day, and your skin will reflect that—looking duller and aged within a day or two of decreased intake,” says Dr. Nazarian.

    However, even if your diet is perfect, practicing good hygiene for hair, skin, and nails is just as essential to avoid damage and prevent moisture loss.


Looking for more tips on good skincare?

Call Schweiger Dermatology Group at (844) DERM-DOC to schedule a consultation with one of our dermatology experts.

To find a location near you, check out our location pages.

About Schweiger Dermatology Group

Schweiger Dermatology Group was founded to help make excellent dermatology care accessible throughout the Northeast. In 2010, Dr. Eric Schweiger started the practice with a single location in Midtown Manhattan. When he saw the need for high-quality dermatology care that did not require weeks or months of waiting to see a qualified provider, his vision of a multi-location practice was born.

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