Understanding and Soothing the Winter Itch
Is your skin feeling dry and flaky? Worried winter is making you morph into some sort of reptile? Don’t fret because you aren’t alone. The dreaded winter itch strikes young and old alike.
“The dry, flaky, itchy skin condition commonly referred to as ‘winter itch’ can occur anywhere and everywhere on the body,” says Emily Johnston, a physician assistant at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas. This uncomfortable skin condition is caused by the dry climatic conditions that occur during the winter months, when humidity is at its lowest. But climate is not the only inciting factor. “The indoor air in many homes and buildings becomes overly dry from active heating systems. Using harsh body soaps to bathe with and wash your clothes can further compound the itching.”
If you are active outdoors, your skin may also sustain what is referred to as a cold-weather sunburn. A cold-weather sunburn happens when your skin is exposed to drying, cold winds and the harsh effects of the sun.
To fight winter itch, you should gently exfoliate your skin to remove the dead skin cells. “Once the dead cells are washed away, you can apply an all-over moisturizer to nourish and protect the skin,” Johnston shares. Applying mineral oil or petroleum jelly helps alleviate the dry skin and relieves itching. “These thick emollients also keeps the skin from drying out, holds in moisture, and preserves the skin’s natural oils.”
Here are several other ways you can prevent winter itch:
- Sunscreen — If you are plan on being outside, be sure to apply sunscreen to protect your skin. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
- Bath — Avoid long, hot showers. Heat can further dehydrate the skin and a shower washes away the skin’s natural oils and increases the chances of suffering from winter itch.
- Diet — Foods rich in omega-3’s can be helpful. Items like flax seeds, walnuts, cold-water fish, and safflower oil all have high concentrations of omega-3 which help boost your body’s natural oil production to keep your skin in healthy condition.
- Humidifier — Run a humidifier in your home during the winter months. Ideally, the indoor humidity should be between 50 to 60 percent.
- Hydrate — Consume ample amounts of water during the day.
If your winter itch becomes too severe, you might have to seek the help of a dermatologist. At Sanova Dermatology, we will work with you to provide winter itch relief. Please contact us to make an appointment.