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HomeHealth articlesdry skinWhy Does the Skin Become Dry in Winter?

Dry Skin - Symptoms and Treatment

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Dry skin is an inevitable problem when the weather turns colder. Read this article to learn more about dry winter skin.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav

Published At January 23, 2023
Reviewed AtJanuary 23, 2023


Winter brings changes to the skin. Dry skin is more common during the colder months than on the hotter days. It can affect many people, and the severity of the symptoms depends on the affected area. Several treatments can replenish the skin's moisture and alleviate symptoms.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dry Skin?

The common signs and symptoms of dry skin include:

  • Itching, flakiness.

  • Redness.

  • Cracked in the skin.

  • Bleeding.

  • Rough texture.

  • Skin irritations.

  • Stinging or burning sensation.

Why Does the Skin Become Dry in Winter?

The skin's moisture level also depends on age, gender, and ethnicity. In addition, certain environmental and genetic factors can contribute to dry skin in winter, including:

  • Low humidity and temperature make perfect conditions for causing dry skin. The cold weather, harsh winds, and rain can even strip the skin of its natural oils.

  • Less moisture in the skin and fewer lipids in the skin's thin outer surface (stratum corneum) contribute to dryness and irritation.

  • People with eczema often get flare-ups in the winter months.

  • During the colder days, people often turn their indoor heating up high, reducing humidity and affecting moisture available to the skin.

  • Taking hot baths or showers for a long time can also damage the skin's surface, causing skin dryness.

  • Using harsh soaps and vigorously rubbing the skin when drying can lead to skin damage.

  • Other medical conditions can cause dry skin, such as atopic dermatitis, perioral dermatitis, ichthyosis, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis.

In addition to seasonal changes, genetics can determine whether an individual has dry skin. For example, some people are more likely to have dry skin because their body does not produce enough of a protein called filaggrin, which plays a vital role in forming and hydrating the skin barrier.

What Is the Best Treatment for Winter Dry Skin?

Caring for dry skin in the winter includes lifestyle changes and skin care product swaps. These steps include:

  • Limit the Length of the Showers: Taking a long, hot shower may feel great when it is chilly outside, but it could be better if someone has dry skin. Long, hot showers can strip the skin's natural, moisturizing oils. So limit the length of the showers to between 5 and 10 minutes. Showering or bathing with lukewarm water is a better choice as it does not draw the skin's moisture.

  • Apply Moisturizer Immediately After Showering: Applying moisturizers on damp skin is more beneficial. So, right after a shower, pat dries the skin with a towel and liberally apply a good moisturizer to trap moisture in the skin. Moisturizers containing glycerin or hyaluronic acid can help increase the amount of water drawn into the skin. Baby oil or mineral oil is also a good choice as it prevents water from evaporating from the skin. Reapply moisturizer throughout the day, especially if there are extremely dry skin patches.

  • Heal Cracked Heels: Cracked heels are a common skin problem, especially in winter. The painful cracked heels are usually caused by dry skin. In addition, calluses around the rim of the heel can complicate the problem. In some cases, dry, cracked heels can cause skin infections or painful walking. Keep feet healthy by applying a thick layer of petroleum jelly on the cracked heels, covering them with plastic wrap, and wearing socks. Improvement can be seen in a few days.

  • Choose a Winter Moisturizer: Using thick, greasy fragrance-free moisturizers is the best way to rehydrate the epidermis and prevent water loss from the skin in winter. Thinner lotions, gels, or moisturizers can cause a stinging sensation when an individual uses them on irritated skin. Moisturizers with emollients, including linoleic, linolenic, and lauric acids, can help smooth the skin's surface and fill the voids between skin cells where there has been moisture loss.

  • Do Not Overexfoliate: Exfoliation is the best way to remove dead skin cells from the skin's surface, keeping the skin looking smooth and vibrant. But, over-exfoliating can be damaging. It can strip natural oils out of the skin, making it itchier and drier. Therefore, it is often recommended to exfoliate once or twice a week using a gentle chemical exfoliant rather than a physical scrub. Avoid using harsher scrubs with large particles or beads, as they may damage the skin's moisture barrier and cause damage. If the skin is cracked, raw, or irritated, it is best to avoid exfoliation until it heals completely.

  • Give Dry Hands Extra Care: Hands are often hit hard by the cold winter air. Although frequent hand washing and sanitizing help eliminate cold and flu germs, it also increases dryness. Give dry hands extra care by using a glycerin-based moisturizer whenever one’s hands feel dry throughout the day. In addition, wear gloves when stepping out in the winter, and use a pair of silicone gloves when washing dishes or the car to prevent the skin from drying.

  • Use a Humidifier: As per the reports of Harvard health publishing, a humidifier setting of 60 % in winter months can replenish moisture in the top layer of the skin. In addition, humidifiers help add moisture back into the air, which acts as a natural moisturizing agent, which, in turn, may prevent and ease skin dryness.

  • Apply Winter Sunscreen: It is possible to get sunburns in winter, especially skiers and other winter athletes at particular risk of sunburn because snow reflects sunlight. Even in winter, harmful ultraviolet light can stress the skin's moisture barrier, which is crucial for maintaining skin health and hydration. Liberally apply a layer of sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or above daily.

  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is another critical step in keeping the skin healthy and glowing. Eating foods and supplements high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may also benefit. These nutrients help protect the cells from environmental damage and make healthy skin cells.

When to See a Doctor?

Several home-based remedies can improve most cases of dry skin. However, if they have no impact or the dry skin symptoms worsen or do not improve, visit a dermatologist. They can examine the skin, recommend prescription treatments, or recommend the next steps.


Dry winter skin is not an inevitable problem in the winter months. However, being conscious of the skin barrier and following a good skincare regime can help prevent this uncomfortable condition. However, if the dry skin is not improving with home remedies, consider seeing a healthcare provider for the proper treatment.

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Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav
Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav



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