Top 10 Tips for Healthy and Dry Winter Skin

As the temperature goes down, our skin loses moisture and natural oils and becomes rough and unmanageable. Cold, dry air can leave your skin itchy, red, and irritated. Combat dry winter skin with these tips for retaining your skin’s natural moisture.

Winter can wreak havoc on your skin, making it dry, itchy, and irritated. Cold air, dry indoor heat, low humidity levels, and harsh winter wind can all zap your skin of moisture. This can leave your skin looking a lot less radiant than normal, not only your face, but also your hands, feet, and other areas exposed to the elements.

Even the things that make winter wonderful, such as sitting by a roaring fire, can dry your skin, as the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes. And though taking a hot shower might seem like a good way to warm up, hot water dries out your skin by stripping it of its natural oils.

But there are many simple ways to combat the causes of dry winter skin and help keep your skin feeling moist and supple all season long, including some easy changes to your everyday routine. For example, after taking a not-quite-so-hot shower, blot skin dry and apply a thick moisturizer within a few minutes after bathing to seal the water into the skin.

What are the signs of dry skin?

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of dry skin include:

  • itchiness
  • flakiness or scaliness
  • redness
  • raw, irritated skin
  • stinging or burning
  • rough texture
  • cracks in your skin

The medical term for dry skin is xerosis. Symptoms can range in severity and look different depending on the area of your body that’s affected.

How to Prevent Dry Winter Skin?

Dry winter skin isn’t inevitable. By making some changes to your skin care regimen and habits, and using the right products, you may be able to keep your skin looking soft, smooth, and vibrant all winter long.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind when it comes to effective winter skincare, so that you can feel your best all winter long.

1. Moisturize Right After Washing:

Any time you wash your face, hands, or body, you strip your skin of its natural oils. Since these oils help to lock in moisture, it’s vital to replace them. That’s why it’s important to use a moisturizer any time you wash your skin, especially in winter.

As a helpful reminder, try stocking a bottle of moisturizer next to your sink and keep a travel-size moisturizer with you when you’re on the go.

2. Apply Sunscreen Daily:

Given the shorter winter days and less sunlight, it can be tempting to cut sunscreen out of your morning routine, but think again. Even in winter, harmful UV light can still stress your skin’s moisture barrier, which is vital for maintaining skin health and hydration.

On bright winter days, snow reflects the sun’s rays — up to 80 percent. That means whether you’re out on the slopes, playing in the snow, or just walking through a parking lot on an errand run, it’s just as important to be applying sunscreen in the harsh winter weather as it is in the summer. And don’t be fooled by darker, dreary days in winter, either. The sun’s harmful UV rays can permeate clouds and still cause damage.

Before you go outside, apply a moisturizing, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to all exposed areas of your body. Try adding a layer of sunscreen each morning after you’ve applied a moisturizer. It is recommended to use sunscreen with at least SPF 30.

3. Use Overnight Treatments:

Overnight treatments are an excellent way to revitalize or prevent dry skin. Emollients are a heavier type of cream and are great for moisturizing. However, it takes longer time for them to be absorbed into your skin. By applying an emollient to your skin overnight, your skin will have the time it needs to absorb the treatment and for the emollient to replenish your skin with the moisture and oils it needs.

If you’re applying an ointment to your hands or feet, consider wrapping them in a plastic bag or gloves to prevent spreading the emollient on your sheets or bed covers.

4. Skin Care Routine:

If the skin on your face seems to be especially sensitive or irritated due to the dry winter air, you may want to consider simplifying your skin care routine for the time being. Keep in mind that your skin’s moisture barrier needs to be healthy in order to respond well to serums, toners, and other types of beauty treatments.

Also, if your skin is irritated, it might be more sensitive to ingredients like fragrance and alcohol. This means that products that would normally feel great on your face could turn into irritants. Try keeping your skin care routine simple. Consider using just a moisturizer and sunscreen in the morning, and a gentle cleanser with a moisturizer at night. Once you feel confident that your skin’s moisture barrier is healthy, you can slowly incorporate other treatments and ingredients back into your routine.

5. Exfoliants and Scrubs:

Exfoliation, which helps remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, can help keep your skin looking smooth and vibrant. But, it’s possible to over exfoliate your skin if you do it too often or use the wrong products. Many people make the mistake of exfoliating too much to remove dead skin but that is a not a good idea. Don’t exfoliate for more than once or twice a week. Gentle exfoliators containing neem, tulsi, strawberry, papaya, and light AHA or BHAs make a good choice.

If your skin looks dry or flaky, you may want to opt for a gentle chemical exfoliant rather than a physical scrub. Harsher scrubs with large particles may be more likely to break down your skin’s moisture barrier and cause damage. If your skin is cracked, raw, or irritated, it may be best to avoid exfoliation until your skin has healed.

6. Limit the Temperature:

A hot shower or bath at the end of a cold winter’s day can feel especially soothing. But, to keep your skin nourished, you may want to keep the water temperature closer to lukewarm. Hot water can strip away your skin’s natural oils faster than lukewarm water (which is typically around 98.6°F/37°C), and possibly even cause damage.

Also, take care when you dry your skin after bathing or showering. Instead of vigorously rubbing, gently pat your skin with a soft towel, which may allow some of the moisture to hydrate the top layer of your skin.

7. Remember to Eat Right and Stay Hydrated:

Another key step to keeping your skin healthy and glowing is to make sure you’re staying well hydrated throughout the day. Not taking in enough fluid can affect the appearance of your skin and also make it more susceptible to drying out.

Sometimes when skin is very dry, it can be helped by foods or supplements that contain omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids, such as fish oil and flaxseed oil. For the most part, however, it is important to help the skin moisturize from the outside. Both of these nutrients can protect your cells from environmental damage and help your body make healthy cells, including skin cells.

8. Wear Appropriate, Comfortable, Nonirritating Clothing:

Many cold-weather fabrics can aggravate dry winter skin. Keep wool and rough clothing from directly touching your skin. This can cause dry skin to get irritated and itchy. Instead, wear light layers made from soft, breathable materials directly against your skin, and then pull on your heavier, warmer sweaters. Be sure to protect your hands from cold winter air with gloves or mittens, remembering to choose a pair that won’t irritate your skin. If you prefer wool gloves, put on cotton or silk glove liners first.

A good rule when dealing with any skin problem is to avoid wearing harsh materials. And dry skin is no exception. If the skin on your body is extra dry, try wearing loose, comfortable, natural fabrics to reduce the risk of extra physical irritation. Also, avoid washing your clothes in regular detergents. Look for detergents formulated for sensitive skin, which will likely be free of harsh chemicals and fragrances.

9. Wear Gloves:

Gloves are the ultimate physical barrier against environmental agents that can dry out the skin on your hands. To protect your hands, wear warm gloves when stepping out into the cold and use a pair of silicone gloves when washing dishes. Limiting the dry air and hot water that touches your skin can help keep your hands smooth and well hydrated.

10. Use a Humidifier to Maximize Moisture:

Using a humidifier in your home or office will add moisture to dry winter air and help keep your skin hydrated. Humidifiers help to add moisture back into the air, which can be especially helpful when indoor heating is cranked up in the winter months. Having more moisture in the air can help act as a natural moisturizing agent which, in turn, may prevent and relieve skin dryness. A humidifier setting of 60 percent in winter can replenish moisture in the top layer of your skin.

When to see a doctor?

While many at-home remedies can help combat dry skin, it’s important to reach out to a healthcare provider or dermatologist if your dry skin symptoms become worse or don’t improve. They will have recommendations for over-the-counter and prescription treatments meant just for your symptoms.


  • It is common to experience dry, flaky skin in winter that not only affects your face, but also your hands, feet, and other areas that are exposed to the elements.
  • Using a humidifier, wearing nonirritating fabrics and gloves, and staying well hydrated can protect your skin, too.
  • The key to keeping your skin healthy is to moisturize your skin frequently with the right products. It’s also important to go easy on exfoliating scrubs, hot water, and other skin care treatments.
  • If you find that your dry skin isn’t improving with at-home remedies, consider following up with your dermatologist for the right treatment.