Beat the Itch: 4 Ways to Avoid Dry Skin in Winter
Here’s how I know it’s winter.
After my nightly soak in the tub, my legs dry out quickly. I sense myself starting to get what I call “lizard skin:” that scratchy, itchy feeling accompanied by the suspicion that my skin has suddenly become a size too small.
Do you know that feeling?
During the warm months, when the indoor relative humidity hovers between 55% and 80%, our skin has most of the moisture it needs. Not only that, we sweat more in the summer, which keeps our pores open. The natural oils that keep our skin looking plump and youthful flow freely thanks to the heat.
Freezing temperatures and forced heat change everything for our skin. If you’re in an arid climate already (like the American Southwest), it’s even worse!
As the founder of BeeNaturals (and someone with admittedly great skin for a 62-year-old!), people ask me about my winter skincare routine all the time. They expect something complicated and are surprised to learn how little I actually do.
I don’t believe complicated routines are the secret to beautiful skin. In fact, if the advice we give (and the products we use) set too high a bar, low-maintenance people like me would never even try.
Taking care of your skin should be simple and achievable. Here are four straightforward ways to keep your skin moisturized, happy, and beautiful all winter long.
How to Avoid Dry Skin in Winter
Winter Skin Tip #1: Stay Hydrated
We all know, but forget, that our skin is the largest organ of our body. Drinking plenty of liquids will help the organ called “skin” stay hydrated.
This is less difficult during the summer when the heat makes us crave more water. In winter, however, the feeling of thirst is much less pronounced, so we must be intentional. Whatever you have to do to ensure you follow the 8 × 8 rule (eight ounces of water eight times a day), make sure to do it.
The good news is this: hot drinks with caffeine, including coffee and tea, count toward your daily fluid intake. Though there was concern caffeine caused dehydration, recent studies have shown this to be largely untrue.
Warning: this does not extend to sugary or alcoholic drinks (more on this later).
Winter Skin Tip #2: Use a Humidifier
Because forced heat dries out our homes, many people install whole-house humidifiers. They can be helpful, but they’re not always necessary. Here are some ways to humidify your home that won’t require such a substantial investment.
- Fill your stockpot with water (or even stock!) and let it simmer all day long.
- Do you take baths instead of showers? When you’re done, don’t pull the plug. Let the steam from the hot water fill your home for a couple of hours.
- Hang your clothes out to dry on a line rather than putting them in the drier. The heat from the drier is, of course, dry. Letting the water evaporate from your clothes will fill your home with more humidity.
- Use a hot-steam vaporizer rather than a humidifier. They’re inexpensive and put steam into the air rather than mist. Steam feels warmer on the skin. It also helps your sinuses, plumps your skin, and reduces itchiness. Unlike more expensive humidifiers, the boiling temperatures kill bacteria, and you can use water from the tap.
Winter Skin Tip #3: Switch to a Gentler Skin Cleanser
I first discovered soap-making through a wonderful old book called Soap: Making it, Enjoying It by Ann Bramson. I still have it and would recommend it to anyone who wanted to make soap themselves.
However, one of my takeaways from the book was this: there’s no such thing as “natural soap.” Soap — whether it is made in your kitchen or a laboratory — is the result of a chemical reaction called “saponification.”
Saponification occurs when you mix sodium or potassium hydroxide (lye) with triglycerides (animal fats or vegetable oils). Heat them, and you get something completely new — soap.
However, soap made through the traditional process can dry out your skin. It’s not bad — it’s just not ideal during winter.
Most store-bought soap is made from a chemical called Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), which has a few benefits. It doesn’t react to hard water, doesn’t leave a bathtub ring, and in effect, makes water wetter. It combines with the water to wash dirt off of your skin.
However, SLS can work a little too well and assault your skin in the process. It produces some great suds, but sudsiness does not equal clean. Rather, that “clean feeling” you get as a result of all those suds is actually the feeling of your skin being stripped of natural oils.
In several of the BeeNaturals Soaps, we use decyl glucoside, a detergent widely recognized as being healthful to skin and kind to the environment. I recommend these gentle soaps during the winter. You can view our offerings here.
Winter Skin Tip #4: Moisturize
Nearly every dermatologist agrees on this: To keep your skin hydrated, moisturize within three minutes of getting out of the tub or shower.
The reason is simple. Your skin is at its most hydrated just after the shower. Your pores are open and receptive, as well. As long as you don’t dry off too thoroughly, you’ll keep your skin hydrated by moisturizing immediately.
If you’re prone to dry skin, choose a heavier, more occlusive (moisture-sealing) cream. Though there are some people whose skin doesn’t dry out in winter (and some who break out when they use heavy creams), most of us need something substantial and even a little greasy during the winter.
Some people are afraid “occlusive” creams smother your skin. This isn’t true!
What’s true is this: occlusive moisturizers prevent TEWL, aka Trans-Dermal Water Loss, by holding the water against your skin.
(We’ll list our favorite winter moisturizers below.)
4 Bonus Tips!
The four biggest enemies of our skin are UV radiation, smoke, alcohol, and sugar. Though we deal with these all year long, here’s how they can sneak up on us during the winter months:
- UV Radiation — Many of us stop using sunscreen in the winter. Don’t! The sun still shines in the winter, even if it’s less intense. And if it snows, look out — 80% of the UV radiation from the sun gets reflected directly off that bright white surface.
- Smoke — Since autumn and winter are cozier with fireplaces, campfires, and bonfires, try not to overdo it. Smoke can aggravate your skin, especially if you’re prone to dermatitis, psoriasis, and acne. And, of course, it goes without saying that smoke from tobacco products is terrible for your skin.
- Alcohol — If you’re headed to a holiday party and intend on drinking alcohol, remember that alcohol dehydrates (it’s an exception to our “drink lots of liquids” rule). Make sure to drink lots of hydrating liquids before, during, and after the event.
- Sugar – Sugar causes the destruction of collagen in your skin. Though I’m not a “sugar-Nazi,” there’s a price to pay for too much sugar in your diet. As with alcohol, moderation is key. Sugar causes glycation, which in excess can lead to AGE’s
Keep Your Skin Happy This Winter
At BeeNaturals, we believe in combining the best science and nature have to offer! These products, formulated to moisturize dry skin any time of the year, offer the best of both worlds:
- Bath and Body Oil: Lightweight, yet helps hold moisture in the skin. Perfect to use after a bath or shower, from head to toe.
- Hand and Body Nectar: Our original ultra-rich lotion for hands and body. Best for those who prefer a richer product. A little goes a long way.
- Glow Body Butter: Ultra-rich and thick with cocoa and shea butters. It forms a semi-occlusive barrier on the skin to seal in precious moisture while leaving the skin moist, well-lubricated, and glowing. A little goes a long way.
- Ultra-Rich Hand Creme: With protective zinc oxide and rich butters and oils, it’s extremely concentrated. Here, less is more. Put it to the test on the most chapped, irritated of hands for rapid relief. This creme can resist several hand washing cycles before reapplication is necessary. Our Luscious Lemon and Buttercream fragrance is a fan favorite.
- Sweet Tease Sweet Orange-Lavender Body Souffle: Shea butter melts into the dryest, flakiest skin like a cloud, but don’t let the light texture fool you. Our souffle is extremely concentrated and provides slowly absorbed emollience that will leave your skin like silk. Luscious sweet orange and soothing lavender essential oils can help balance your mood.
- Hydra72H Body Lotion with macadamia and avocado oils is thick and rich, like a cream, but goes on like a feather and is absorbed almost immediately, creating a non-greasy, long lasting moisture reservoir. The key ingredient, Saccharide Isomerate from Switzerland is a deeply moisturizing, plant-derived ingredient which is similar to the carbohydrate complex found in human skin. Provides deep hydration & creates a moisture reservoir that lasts for 72 hours. A sprinkle of lemon essential oil will help chase away those winter blues.
- Ultimate Foot Creme is rich with cocoa butter, beeswax, and botanical oils to soften and pamper dry, cracked, and rough feet. Contains anti-fungal tea tree oil, myrrh and propolis. We love talking to people about their skin! If you’re unsure which of these is right for you, drop us a line or drop by the store for a free consultation.
Wow That’s a lot of tips. Thanks for wrangling them all!