A quick guide to winter skin care

Winter months often bring in cold, harsh changes for skin and hair, but a few good habits can alleviate dryness as well as the discomfort of itchy skin. UT Southwestern dermatologists offer some insight on the role moisture plays, and how to keep your skin and hair healthy when the temperatures drop.

“The relative lack of humidity during the winter months coupled with indoor heating systems will significantly dry out skin,” said Dr. Stephanie Savory, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at UT Southwestern.

While a change in weather is the main culprit of winter skin care, Dr. Savory said aging also is a key factor.

“As we age, the oil glands in our skin as a whole are less able to keep up with the dryness in our environment. Thus, we dry out more easily than we did when we were younger,” Dr. Savory said.

Below are a few tips Dr. Savory suggests to help keep your skin and hair healthy during winter:

  • Take short, warm showers – Though they may feel good, long, hot showers can pull moisture from the skin and dry you out even more. Short (less than 10 minutes), lukewarm showers or baths with moisturizing soap are preferable in winter.
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize – Within 2-3 minutes of emerging from the shower, apply a coat of a fragrance-free, moisturizing cream or ointment, not lotion, all over the body to lock in the skin's moisture. Sleeping with a humidifier in your bedroom will also help moisten the air.
  • Use a leave-in conditioner to protect the scalp and hair – Just like skin on other areas of the body, the scalp dries more easily in winter. If you notice more dryness or itching of the scalp outside of scalp disease such as dandruff or psoriasis, try a leave-in, deep conditioner a couple of times per week. If the symptoms don’t improve, see a dermatologist.
  • Always use sunscreen – There is still significant UV exposure on cloudy days and cold days. Everyone needs a daily sunscreen, gentle cleanser, and moisturizer to use year-round. Sunscreen not only helps prevent skin cancer such as melanoma, but it maintains the thickness of the skin, which contributes to a youthful appearance and can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and sunspots that often give an aged, sun-damaged look. Thus, sunscreen is important every day, even if it's cold, cloudy, or if you're only leaving home for a short while. Choose one that has UVA and UVB coverage, and is SPF 30 or higher.

In addition to giving your skin extra care during the winter, always pay attention to any spot that does not heal, is rapidly growing, is changing colors, or bleeds on its own. These are all symptoms that should be examined by a dermatologist.


Media Contact: Remekca Owens