As the colder months set in, you may notice your skin transitioning into a dry, itchy, flaky mess. In addition to being unsightly, when skin becomes dry and irritated, it can exacerbate the symptoms of certain skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Winter weather affects your skin in several ways. During the summer months, the humid air helps to moisturize your skin, and the nourishing minerals in vitamin D are more easily accessible because of the vast amount of sunlight. In places with harsh winters, such as the Northeast, once winter arrives, the humidity levels plummet outdoors and you’re stuck indoors for longer periods of time. Cold winter air lacks humidity and dries up natural oils in your skin, causing dehydration. Bitter winter winds also cause chapping and windburn. Between the harsh weather outside and the blasting heat inside, your skin needs extra care during the winter months.

Start following these tips early, before the thermometer hits the freezing mark and your skin will thank you this winter season.

  1. Avoid hot showers and baths. Your first instinct on a cold morning is to take a long, hot shower. While tempting, this is not a good idea for your skin. Bathing in hot water breaks down the lipid barriers in your skin, which causes a loss in moisture. Instead, take warm showers and avoid staying in for an extended period of time. Showers should be limited to 10 minutes or less.
  2. Exfoliate. Overtime your skin creates a build-up of dead skin on your outermost layer. These dead skin cells are what make your skin look dull and flaky. In addition, this layer acts as a barrier, preventing moisturizer to absorb fully. Exfoliating gets rid of the dead skin cells and reveals newer, healthier-looking skin. Use a gentle exfoliating product a few times a week, or less, if you have sensitive skin.
  3. Moisturize. Once your skin is exfoliated, the next important step is moisturizing. A common misconception about moisturizers is that they add moisture to your skin. Although better serums can be absorbed, most moisturizers are not formulated to add moisture to your skin, they just lock-in the moisture that’s already there. Therefore, it’s important to apply moisturizer to damp skin. Switch to a heavier moisturizer in the winter that is oil-based, not water-based. The oil will create a protective layer on the skin that retains more moisture. Make sure to also use an oil-based moisturizer with SPF, even when the sun isn’t out. UV rays that cause skin damage are present year-round, rain or shine.
  4. Use a humidifier. In the winter months, the lack of moisture in the air causes skin to crack and become itchy. Humidifiers put moisture back into the air and prevent extreme dry skin. Run it in your bedroom at night to counter the drying effects of indoor heating. Be sure to follow the directions for cleaning the humidifier to avoid build-up of bacteria.
  5. Bundle up in layers and take off wet clothes. Dressing in layers allows you to take clothes off when you experience overheating and sweating. This is important especially for psoriasis and eczema sufferers as sweating can make symptoms worse. Avoid irritating your skin by wearing soft fabrics. Fabrics such as wool and denim are more likely to irritate your skin. Wet clothes that are worn close to the skin can cause irritation and sores. Change out of wet clothes — gloves and socks as soon as possible.