Dry skin can sometimes have other underlying causes like eczema or psoriasis, but they’ll all be exacerbated by winter’s dry air. Despite the daily weather report’s relative humidity reading, as air get colder, it loses its capacity to hold moisture. With or without contributing factors, this time of year forces practically everyone to take precautions and use a few remedies to undo the ravages of dry skin. Whether a particular measure reverses dry skin in a day depends on the initial severity and how well the person practices these treatments.
Moistening The Air
When the air contains less of its own humidity, it’ll pull it from a person’s skin. A simple solution to this is to use a humidifier to raise indoor levels of moisture. While using this technique, it’s best to keep the temperature fairly warm. The reason the concept of relative humidity was invented is because dampened air makes both warm air feel warmer on the skin and cold air feel colder. It’s also important that the humidifier filter be changed regularly since bacteria and other microbes enjoy warm, damp locations as perfect breeding grounds. Sometimes, a cheap alternative is sitting pans of water next to heating vents. Of course, this approach runs the risk of knocking the pans over.
Moisture levels in the skin actually depend on two ingredients. First, water obviously has to be present. Second, the water would easily evaporate where it not for naturally-produced oils in the skin that hold it there. At first glance, lots of hot showers might seem to add moisture to the skin, but the act of bathing washes skin oils away. Cutting back on showers can help skin recover from dryness. Also, using cooler water helps since hotter water loosens skin oils so the soap can carry them away. By the same token, including bath oils or an oatmeal bath to the cleaning regimen helps make up for natural losses.
Seal It In
Because supplemental bath oil can only go so far and isn’t even possible when showering, moisturizers should be applied immediately afterwards. Before putting anything on the skin, though, there first needs to be residual water in the skin. Instead of rubbing the skin dry, it should be patted semi-dry so there’s something for a moisturizer to retain. For light dryness, ordinary moisturizers will usually do the trick as long as they are perfume-free. For more serious situations, effective skin sealers will contain either petrolatum, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, or cyclomethicone. Good, common examples of these are petroleum jelly or vegetable oil. When all else fails, it’s time to consult a doctor who can prescribe a medication utilizing cortisone, urea-based ointments, or alpha hydroxy acid.
Soothe The Irritation
Dry skin is already damaged skin. By itching it, it becomes even more damaged. A solution to this irritation is to use a wash cloth dipped in slightly chilled water placed on the afflicted spot for several minutes. Afterwards, seal the dampness in with a moisturizing agent.
Finally, after tending to the skin, it’s time to put something over it. Clothing made from natural materials like cotton or silk work better at keeping skin from drying than synthetic ones. While materials like polyester carry moisture away from the skin, cotton lets skin breathe so it’s less likely to sweat in the first place and the water will stay put. An exception to this rule is wool, which can inflame existing problems.