Why Is My Skin So Dry?

As the seasons change and temperatures drop, many South Asheville residents will start battling dry skin. Whether you’re hiking through Bent Creek Experimental Forest, savoring the views along Blue Ridge Parkway, or simply navigating the daily hustle and bustle of life, dry skin can quickly change from a minor inconvenience to a source of extreme irritation and discomfort. With winter just around the corner, it’s time to get ahead of the curve and take proactive measures to ensure that you and your loved ones can enjoy the Buncombe County winter season without the discomfort of dry skin.

Are your elbows or knees getting a bit flaky or rough? Do you see some cracks in your hands? As winter rolls in, many people deal with the annoyance of itchy, dry skin. Knowing why this happens and how to stop it is key to keeping your skin healthy during the colder months.

If you have questions or concerns about your skin, call or visit our office at AFC Urgent Care Arden.

Understanding Dry Skin During the Winter

The primary cause of dry skin during winter is the reduced humidity in the air. As the temperature drops, the air can’t hold as much moisture, leading to a drier environment both indoors and outdoors. This lack of humidity causes moisture to evaporate more quickly from the skin, leaving it feeling tight, flaky, and uncomfortable. Especially in the South, where there is extreme humidity during the spring and summer, it’s no surprise that most people experience an adverse reaction to sudden dryness.

In addition to the drier air, cold temperatures can also contribute to dry skin by constricting blood vessels. This constriction reduces the flow of natural oils and nutrients to the skin. Frequently using harsh soaps and detergents, especially during the colder months, can also strip the skin of its natural oils, making it more susceptible to dryness.

Most Vulnerable Areas for Dry Skin

While dry skin can be different for everyone, there are some common spots that are vulnerable to drying out, especially during the winter.

  • Elbows. The skin on the elbows is naturally thicker and prone to dryness. The lack of oil glands in this area makes it more susceptible to moisture loss.
  • Hands. Constant exposure to cold air, harsh soaps, and frequent handwashing can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and cracking.
  • Knees. Like the elbows, the skin on the knees is thicker and tends to be drier. Regular moisturization is crucial to prevent dryness and roughness.
  • Face (especially around the mouth). The delicate skin on the face is more sensitive to environmental changes. The area around the mouth is particularly prone to dryness due to constant exposure to cold air and wind.
  • Feet. Wearing closed shoes and boots during winter can cause feet to sweat, leading to dryness and potential cracking.

How do you prevent dry skin during winter?

Use a humidifier

Humidifiers are a great solution to help your skin stay hydrated and prevent it from becoming dry and irritated during the winter. Plus, if you struggle with asthma or other respiratory issues in cold seasons, humidifiers help those symptoms, too.

The key to choosing the best humidifier is getting the appropriate size. An oversized humidifier can make your home too damp, potentially causing mold and mildew. However, an undersized humidifier can leave your skin still feeling like a desert. Always check the square footage recommendations on the packaging when selecting your new humidifier so your skin gets every benefit.

Avoid hot showers

While hot showers usually feel like relief during colder months, the hot water is actually drying out your skin. In the winter, the skin is already more prone to dryness due to the cold, dry air. Hot showers can further dry out the skin and make existing skin conditions worse. Have you ever noticed your skin looking red after a hot shower? This happens because hot water can cause the blood vessels in the skin to dilate, which causes redness, irritation, dryness, and flaking.

Hot water also strips the skin of its natural oils. These oils create a protective barrier on the skin that locks in moisture and protects against external irritants. Plus, hot water can damage the keratin cells that are located on the epidermis, the outer-most layer of the skin. Keratin cells are responsible for protecting the skin from water loss and environmental damage. When keratin cells are damaged, they can no longer lock in moisture, leading to dry skin.

Moisturize regularly

Moisturizing regularly is essential for preventing dry skin in the winter. The cold, dry air can strip away the skin’s natural oils, leaving it feeling tight, itchy, and flaky. Moisturizing helps to replenish these oils and keep the skin hydrated.

For the best results, find a fragrance-free and non-comedogenic moisturizer to avoid irritating the skin and clogging your pores. Ointments and creams are generally more moisturizing than lotions and are the best choice for people with very dry skin. Products that contain ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and shea butter are ideal solutions for moisturizing dry skin.

For optimal moisture absorption, apply a generous layer of moisturizer to slightly damp skin immediately after bathing or showering. This is when your skin is most receptive to hydration. Repeat the process daily to maintain skin suppleness and prevent dryness.

Protect your skin

Whenever you venture outside in the winter, make sure to bundle up. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the cold and wind. A scarf can help keep your neck and face warm, and a hat will protect your scalp and ears. Even though the sun may not seem as strong in the winter, it’s still important to protect your skin from its harmful UV rays. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to all exposed skin, including your face, neck, and hands.

Stay hydrated with a healthy winter diet

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides your skin with the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it needs to stay hydrated and radiant. Plus, drinking at least eight glasses of water per day will contribute to preventing itchy, dry skin.

Fruits are packed with water, which contributes to keeping your skin moist and preventing dryness. Vegetables are a treasure trove of vitamins A, C, and E, all of which play a vital role in maintaining skin health and preventing premature aging. Omega-3 fatty acids, often found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines, are essential for maintaining skin elasticity and preventing inflammation. Incorporating these nutrient-rich foods into your diet can significantly improve the overall health and appearance of your skin during the colder months.

Dry skin during winter is a common concern, but with proper care and attention, it can be easily and effectively managed. By following some of these tips, you can keep your skin healthy, hydrated, and protected throughout the colder months. Remember, consistency is key in maintaining optimal skin health. Stay moisturized, stay hydrated, and enjoy the winter season without worrying about flaky, dry skin.