Skin Care: How To Deal With Dry Skin In Winters?

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Though much eagerly awaited by some, the winter season brings along with it a myriad of problems. First, you have to keep yourself covered from head to feet in layers of clothing. And on top of it, dry skin makes your life even more difficult! Dry skin is one very commonly encountered problem, which exacerbates specially during the cold months.

What causes dry skin ?

The skin retains its smooth, glossy and fresh appearance due to the lipids (oils) it contains in its outer-most layer, which is known as ‘Stratum corneum’. This layer consists of dead cells embedded in a mixture of natural oils produced by the underlying living cell layers of the skin. This ‘Stratum corneum’ conserves the moisture of the skin from evaporating, and thus keeps the skin in good shape. The cold, dry and windy conditions in winters cause a depletion of the natural oils in the ‘Stratum corneum’, which eventually leads to the loss of skin moisture. Thus, the skin becomes dry and brittle. Apart from this, even too much heat (including the relaxing hot water baths in winters) can cause dry skin.

What are the problems associated with dry skin ?

A dry skin is more prone to develop cracks. It is then susceptible to invading micro-organisms which may cause infections. It is also more prone to itching, as free nerve endings become easily stimulated. Severe itching leads to rashes and further chances of crusting and scarring. Severe dryness of the skin may lead to dermatitis, which results in scaly appearance of the skin which even mimics fish-scales in severe forms.

How to treat dryness of the skin ?

As the major cause of skin dryness is the loss of skin-moisture, hence, provision of adequate hydration and its retention is the basis of treating skin dryness.

The easiest and most effective way to maintain skin hydration is the liberal use of moisturizers. Body moisturizers can be in the form of ointments, oils, creams and lotions (in decreasing order of moisturizing power). The greasier the feel of the moisturizer, the more it traps and holds water in the skin. To be fully effective, it is necessary to use a moisturizer three or more times daily.

One should ensure adequate water intake too, especially during winter months. Though drinking more water doesn’t ensure a hydrated skin, but it does check the risk of the skin getting dry.

Hot showers/baths should be avoided/minimized during winter months, as hot water is quick to wash out natural oils. Also, vigorous scrubbing is hazardous to the skin cells and leads to the shedding off of dead cells and lipids.

One should refrain from the use of strong soaps which are a potent skin irritant. And injudicious overuse of soap can also be a big cause of dry skin. Moisturizing soaps should be preferred, though not overused.

Artificial dry heat from heaters etc., used during winters, is also a major cause of dry skin. The use of a humidifier can be beneficial in preventing skin from getting dry.

Proper and complete diet is essential not only for the overall body health, but also for the well-being of the skin. Essential fatty acids and vitamins help in maintaining the freshness of the skin. Vitamin C helps prevent the occurrence of fissures and cracks in the skin.

And finally, a good sleep and peace of mind help in keeping both, the skin and the body as a whole, healthy.

It is true that our skin needs special care during winters. But it is also true that a healthy lifestyle, good eating habits, and general skin care throughout the year will help minimize damage to the skin during winters.

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