This is an exciting time of the year, especially with all the holidays and outdoor winter sports. It’s also the time when many of us experience itchy, dry skin. This issue can easily be managed by taking a couple of minutes a day to incorporate dry skincare into your daily routine.

Winter Moisturizers

The best time to moisturize is immediately after a shower or bath when your skin is still damp. Which moisturizer should you use? Well, that depends on your personal preference. Moisturizers are classified into three categories: ointments, creams, and lotions.  All contain the same main ingredients (water and oil) but in different proportions. Out of these three moisturizers, I favor ointments and creams since lotions tend to not provide enough moisture, especially during the dryer, colder winter months. For ointments, I recommend Vaseline and Aquaphor. Ointments are great for hydrating the skin since they help retain moisture. However, some patients find them to be greasy and messy to apply. Also, ointments have a tendency to stick to clothing. As a result, many patients find it easiest to use ointments at nighttime before going to sleep.

I find most of my patients prefer creams. There are over the counter moisturizing creams such as CeraVe, Cetaphil, and VaniCream that you can be purchased at your local drug store. For my eczema patients, I favor CeraVe since it contains ceramides. Ceramides are a major lipid (fat) component in our skin and play an important role in the skin’s protective barrier function. In addition to the over the counter products listed above, you can also try our Epionce Medical Barrier Cream. This Epionce cream provides excellent hydration and is a good option for patients with sensitive skin. Epionce is also a great option for those that are sensitive to preservatives.

Use SPF, Even in Winter

In addition to using moisturizers daily, I advise my patients to practice diligent sun protection.

Ultraviolet light from the sun still comes through the clouds on chilly, rainy days and is harmful to the skin. On a daily basis, I recommend using a facial moisturizer that contains a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater. Be sure to apply the SPF moisturizer to your face, neck, upper chest, ears, and backs of hands. If you enjoy outdoor winter sports, the sunlight reflects off the snow, ice, and water. When spending time outside, I recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater. Make sure to apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes before going outside and reapply every 2 hours when spending longer periods of time outdoors.

Winter Skin Conditions

The winter months are also a common time when inflammatory skin conditions flare. Two common red, itchy rashes we see frequently during the wintertime are eczema and seborrheic dermatitis. Eczema is characterized by red, itchy patches of skin, which can be localized to one area of the body such as the hands or knees, or it can be more widespread. The cause of eczema is multifactorial, including genetics, environmental factors, and stress. Eczema can usually be well managed with a combination of daily dry skincare and topical prescription medications such as corticosteroids and other topical anti-inflammatory medications.

Seborrheic dermatitis is the other common rash we see in the colder months. It is characterized by red, flaky skin on the scalp, eyebrows, nose, cheeks, and/or ears. The normal skin yeast pityrosporum lives in these oil-rich regions of the skin. Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory response to this normal skin yeast. To manage this common rash, we use a combination of topical antifungal and anti-inflammatory medications.

Schedule an Appointment

If your dry, itchy skin is not improving with the above remedies, I recommend you make an appointment so we can determine what treatment(s) you would benefit from. I want my patients to have healthy skin and a good quality of life, and I am very aware of how itching and other skin symptoms can have a negative impact on sleep and one’s daily activities. Please don’t hesitate to call Seattle Skin & Laser so we can help you get started on other treatment options.

I hope you find this information helpful. Have a happy holiday season.

Cheryl Gustafson, MD