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Along with the first frost and some snow flurries, the winter season ushers in dry air that can make your skin feel itchy and irritated. During the fall and winter seasons, you’ll have to work harder to keep your skin looking and feeling right.

“The humidity levels drop when cold air moves into the area, which strips the moisture from your skin,” said Anthony Wylie, D.O., a family medicine physician at Geisinger Mt. Pleasant in Scranton. “And unfortunately, cranking the heat up at home won’t help. No matter what type of heat is produced, the warm, dry air can also leave your skin feeling parched.”

Instead of suffering through the winter with itchy, dry and even painful cracked skin, you can do some simple things to keep your skin feeling smooth and moisturized.

Avoid hot showers and harsh cleansers

When you wake up in the morning or come in from the cold, it may be tempting to take a hot shower or bath, but hot water can make you skin dry and itchy.

“Turn down the dial in your shower so the water is lukewarm, not hot, and use a gentle soap with moisturizer built in,” said Dr. Wylie. “Avoid cleansers that contain alcohol and fragrances, and moisturize right after you get out of the shower or bath.”

If you wear makeup, you may also want to change up your routine to include a cold cream moisturizer for makeup removal, rather than other makeup removers that also include alcohol.

Moisturize early and often

Speaking of moisturizing, ointments and creams can help keep your skin feeling soft longer than lighter moisturizing lotions. Ointments are typically oil-based, rather than water-based, and will create a protective layer on top of the skin to hold moisture in.

Apply moisturizer after you get out of the shower or bath, and reapply often to limit the effects of dry skin.

Bundle up

When you step outside in the blustery winter weather, make sure your skin is covered—especially your hands.

Your hands often become dry and irritated before other parts of your body and can even crack from the dry air, in part because of frequent hand washing. When you go out, be sure to wear wool gloves that will keep your hands warm. If wool gloves make your hands itchy, you can add a layer with a thin cotton glove on your skin.

Don’t wear cold socks and gloves

If you’re building a snowman in your backyard, sledding down a hill in the neighborhood, or skiing and tubing on the slopes, your gloves and socks might end up wet.

Cold, wet wool gloves and socks can make your skin red and itchy, so be sure to take them off as soon as you get inside.

Use a humidifier

During the winter months, you can easily add moisture to the air with a humidifier.

“Your central heating system and even your fireplace will make you feel nice and warm, but they’re not doing anything good for your skin,” said Dr. Wylie. “A humidifier can help to add moisture back into the air, which will help keep skin itchiness and irritation to a minimum.”
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