There are lots of reasons our love for winter runs deep: warm desserts, piping tea, cozying up by the fire and hygge, to name a few. But when it comes to our dry skin (you know, the kind that seems to linger from December through March), we’re tempted to call the romance off.
It’s normal. A whole slew of internal and external factors, from how stressed you are to how high you cranked the heat, can cause winter skin to shrivel up into a desert of dryness, John G. Zampella, MD, an assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Health, tells SheKnows .
Furthermore, when your skin’s super stressed, your go-to lotion might not be able to do its job as it should. Fortunately, the right products (Vaseline’s Clinical Care line, for example, promises to calm, soothe and heal even the driest, angriest winter skin in as little as five days) and routine can go a long way to easing your troubles.
Here, five common reasons your skin might be acting up this winter — plus how to restore your skin’s barrier, giving your body’s largest organ (yep, your skin!) some much-needed lovin’.
Cold, dry weather dries your skin out
Frigid weather usually goes hand-in-hand with dry weather and if your skin becomes a flake fest every time chilly temps hit, that’s only natural. “Cold air can’t hold as much moisture as warm air,” Zampella says. “So it follows that when the air dries out, so does your skin.”
Think of your skin as a brick wall, he says. “Your skin cells are the bricks and then there is the mortar that holds all the bricks together. The mortar is made up of the natural oils your skin produces.” When the weather is bone dry? The mortar crumbles, your skin barrier breaks down, water escapes, and you’re left with dryness.
To keep your skin in tip-top shape, replace those natural oils, he says. The best way to do that is with a clinical strength moisturizer — one like Vaseline Clinical Care Extremely Dry Skin Rescue Lotion fits the bill well.
Look for hydrating ingredients such as glycerin which attract moisture to our skin, Meghan Feely, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist practicing in New York City and New Jersey and a clinical instructor in Mount Sinai’s Department of Dermatology, tells SheKnows.
Stress and a lack of sleep leave you parched
You missed an important meeting, are late for another, and just spilled coffee No. 2. All of that chaos isn’t just taking a toll on your mind. “Stress is ubiquitous and has many effects on the skin,” says Zampella. Here’s how: When you’re stressed, your body produces excess amounts of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol. “Cortisol alters your immune system and your immune system has a huge impact on your skin,” says.
In fact, stress has been shown to have a role in many inflammatory skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, acne and rosacea, adds Feely, who adds stress could also impact how well your skin barrier functions.
And since stress can impact how well you sleep, this can be a nasty, tiring cycle (especially given that even one night of poor sleep is linked with skin issues such as an uptick in fine lines, a paler look, and droopy eyes).
Fortunately, TLC doesn’t need to be complicated. Derms often urge patients to look for non-comedogenic (read: non-pore-clogging) products to ease the stress — moisturizers that will add moisture without tons of extra ingredients that could stress your skin out more. Use a rich one at night to help hydrate your skin (and make for a relaxing bedtime routine), Zampella suggests.
Vaseline Clinical Care Eczema Calming Therapy Cream has a rich and luxurious formula created for eczema-prone skin that will feel extra-pampering, especially in winter months.
Your heating system makes your home a desert
Back to that dry air for a second: not only is cold air dry, super hot air (especially the kind emitted when you crank on your heating system) can be dry, too. A moisturizer that traps water is a good place to start but you want to time application right, too, says Zampella who suggests lotion-ing up right after the shower to really seal in the moisture.
“Investing in a humidifier can help avert dry wintertime skin, too,” says Feely. “Humidity levels in your home should be between 30 to 50 percent.” Devices called hygrometers (you can buy one on Amazon) can measure humidity levels.
If you don’t exfoliate, you’re left with dry, scaly skin
Quick: When was the last time you exfoliated? If it was more than a week or so ago, that could be why your moisturizer isn’t quite sticking. “Dead skin cells pile up on your skin, and like dead leaves clogging the gutters in the fall, these prevent your moisturizers from really penetrating your skin,” says Zampella.
Sloughing off the dead stuff from time to time then applying lotion can help your skin soak up the product, leaving you with that silky, smooth feel (yes, even in March).
Long, hot showers suck moisture away
Steamy showers sound seriously dreamy on chilly winter days, but hot water draws moisture out of your skin, Feely says. That’s why she suggests limiting shower time to 10 minutes, max, and using only warm water in the winter. From there, skip harsh soaps or potentially irritating lotions and moisturizers that (*gasp*) could be making your skin worse.
“For my patients, particularly those with conditions like eczema or sensitive skin, I recommend fragrance-free moisturizers,” she says. Vaseline Clinical Care’s line, for example, is free of skin-stressing fragrance. “Breathable fabrics made of cotton are advisable for those with sensitive skin, as fabrics like wool may be itchy and irritate the skin,” she notes.
This post was created by SheKnows for Vaseline.