Three Easy Ways to Ward Off Dry Winter Skin

It's a problem many of us face when the weather turns cold...

Tight. Itchy. Cracked. Bleeding.

These are the hallmarks of dry winter skin.

Skin is our greatest protector. It's the physical barrier between you and the outside world. It keeps out germs, protects you from infection, and helps regulate your body temperature. And during this time of year, it's constantly fighting against the weather.

In the winter, the air all around you is dry. Outside, the cold temperature condenses the air, leaving less room for water. As such, when the air around you warms from your body's heat, it pulls moisture from your skin.

Inside, the warm air from your heating system may also be dry, further dehydrating your skin and the tissues that line your nose and throat.

Dry skin is uncomfortable. It can feel itchy, tight, and tender. And it can crack and bleed, making you more vulnerable to infection.

So this winter, take good care of your skin with these three tips that'll help lock in moisture...

Tip No. 1: Change Up Your Washing Routine

Bathing seems like it should rejuvenate your skin's moisture. But if you're doing it wrong, you're actually causing your skin more harm than good.

Turns out, long, hot showers damage your skin cells – specifically the keratinocytes which help keep your skin structure strong – and make your skin more prone to drying out.

Do what I do and counteract these effects by taking warm showers (around 98 degrees Fahrenheit, which is what dermatologists typically recommend) – or colder. If you usually shower every day, try every other day instead.

Additionally, the harsh chemicals in most soaps – called surfactants­ – remove your skin's natural oils, making it less able to retain moisture. Add abrasive toweling off to the mix, and your skin is even more irritated.

Choose a gentle, fragrance-free, moisturizing soap (like Dove or Cetaphil) that doesn't make your skin feel tight after you shower – which is a sign that it's dry. And use less soap during your shower, focusing on the face, armpits, and groin areas.

The same soap rules apply for handwashing, too. The best moisturizing soaps contain fats and oils from plants – like shea butter, jojoba oil, and coconut oil. Soaps made with glycerin or ceramides are fantastic choices, as well. These soaps clean your hands and leave behind a barrier that helps keep moisture in your skin.

Tip No. 2: Moisturize More Effectively

Now, you may think that putting lotion on your skin is going to help protect it from the dry winter air. But lotion could make it worse... because the main ingredient in lots of lotions is actually water.

So when the dry winter air surrounds that watery lotion on your skin, it pulls the moisture away and also takes the water in your skin with it.

When you get out of the shower or finish washing your hands, thoroughly pat your skin dry and apply an oil-based, moisturizing cream while your skin is still wet. The oil will provide a thick barrier on your skin that will keep its moisture in. Oil sits on top of your skin, rather than being absorbed into it. It also contains nutrients like fatty acids that help hydrate your skin.

Avoid water-based lotions because they won't lock in your skin's moisture. Instead, use a cream. Creams contain moisturizers known as occlusives – like jojoba and argan oils – that form a moisture barrier on the skin to prevent your skin's natural oil from escaping. You can tell if a moisturizer is water- or oil-based by looking at the first item on its ingredient list – it will either say "water" or a type of oil, like coconut oil.

And just like in soap, avoid fragrance in your moisturizers because they contain chemicals that evaporate easily and can take your skin's moisture with them. Moisturize every day and whenever your skin is feeling or looking dry – which could mean multiple times a day at first. As your skin's overall hydration improves, you may not have to moisturize as often.

Tip No. 3: Hydrate Your Insides

Ingesting water from your foods and beverages is important for your overall health and hydration. Unfortunately, it won't do much to keep your skin from getting dry in the winter.

But eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids will. That's because omega-3s help fortify the cellular walls throughout your body. Just like putting oil on your skin locks in moisture, putting omega-3s in your body will keep you hydrated.

In fact, a study published in the Skin Pharmacology and Physiology journal found that eating half a teaspoon of flaxseed oil for 12 weeks improved participants' skin hydration by 39%.

So eat your omega-3s throughout the year in order to strengthen the cells that make up the moisture barrier in your skin, so that you're protected come winter. Some great ways to do this are by eating and cooking with:

  • Plant oils like olive, flaxseed, and walnut
  • Fish and seafood like salmon, mussels, and shrimp
  • Nuts like walnuts, almonds, and macadamia
  • Seeds like chia, pumpkin, and flaxseed
  • Vegetables like Brussels sprouts, avocados, and spinach

Take charge and protect your skin from drying out this winter. By making small changes to your bathing and moisturizing routines, and by choosing foods that will hydrate you from the inside out, you can keep your skin healthy – despite the dryness all around you.

And if you want more tips on how to stay healthy and happy this winter, don't miss the upcoming issue of Retirement Millionaire. In it, I'll share some insights into keeping three common winter ailments at bay. If you're not already a Retirement Millionaire subscriber, click here to sign up.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
December 13, 2022