With the temperatures outside dipping and furnaces coming on, moisture starts to decrease in our living environments and the biggest organ of our body, the skin, starts to protest! "Winter skin" can be very dry, itchy, may form a few new superficial lines, and can become very uncomfortable to live in!

In fact, skin can get so dehydrated in winter that it loses its elasticity and can feel very uncomfortable, even painful, with even our clothes rubbing against it. Today, I'd like to share with you some simple winter skin care tips that you can do to help keep skin dewy soft and supple all winter long. They will not only make you look great but also feel great as a bonus!

How To Prevent and Treat Winter Skin

Moisture is the key to healthy skin all year long and especially during the winter months. In fact, you need to take special care of your skin over winter. Cold, dry air outside and warm, dry, air inside, both serve to sap the moisture out of the air and cause winter dry skin.

The answer, then, is not just simply to lather on more moisturizer, although moisturizers have their place. First, I want to tell you about creating optimal skin, hydrating and moisturizing it, from the inside out, which can do a lot to keep your skin comfortable and elastic during cold winter months. Here's how:

1. Omega-3 Fats: Omega-3 fats are very good for your general overall cardiac and joint health, but did you know that they could also zap dry skin woes as well? That's right. Omega-3's can restore significant oil, and comfort, to the skin. Good food sources are salmon, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed. Or, take a good supplement of minimum 1,000 mg up to 3,000 mg daily.

2. Water: Our bodies need a constant supply of fresh water to stay well hydrated which benefits all our organs, especially our skin. Internal dehydration is one of the main causes of dry skin, so make sure you are drinking the right amount of water for you. In general, minimum intake should be 1 gallon of water per day. Some researchers recommend more if you are sweating alot from exercise, or other conditions; 91 oz per day for women and 107 oz for men.

3. Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a "skin health" vitamin. It helps build collagen in the skin that keeps the skin tight yet elastic. Good sources are citrus fruits but you should also include a good, high potency Vitamin C supplement of about 1,000 to 2,000 mg a day.

4. Vitamin A: Vitamin A deficiency can result in dry skin, especially in winter. Make sure you are getting enough beta carotene (the precursor from which your body makes its own Vitamin A) in yellow vegetables and fruits such as squash, cantaloupe, and carrots. Make sure your daily supplement contains beta carotene as well.

5. Vitamin D: This amazing workhorse vitamin does a lot for optimal health. It also helps to create healthy skin, prevent and cure dry skin, even psoriasis. Especially in the winter months, we do not get enough sunlight exposure to give us adequate Vitamin D. If you have chronic dry skin that gets worse in winter, you might be deficient in Vitamin D. It also helps process Vitamin A and C, the other skin health vitamins. A Vitamin D deficiency can be determined by a simple blood test. Meanwhile, a minimum of 1,000-2,000 mg of Vitamin D3 a day will remedy this. If you are over 50, and do not drink D fortified dairy products; you may need even more Vitamin D, up to 5,000 mg a day.

Moisturizers and Other Skin Comfort Tips

You don't have to invest in expensive skin moisturizers to help remedy dry, itchy winter skin. Your corner pharmacy likely has a good stock of different brands of inexpensive skin moisturizers that you can use on your entire body. Here's what to look for:

1. Oil based products: Look for a primarily oil-based product for winter use as opposed to mostly water based which work better in spring/summer months. Don't forget the old staples of baby oil and/or baby lotion! These work as well as more expensive "beauty products" marketed for dry skin.

2. Moisture Attractors: If you want to invest in some of the more high end products, look for ones that contain "humectants" like sorbital, alpha-hydroxy acids, or glycerine that help keep moisture in the skin. Make your winter soap one like olive oil or glycerine that won't dry it.

3. Kitchen/Medicine Chest Remedies: You can make your own inexpensive excellent skin moisturizers using a few natural products you may already have in your kitchen or bathroom cabinet. One of my favorites is extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil, even mineral oil or glycerine. You may want to refrigerate a bit of the oil for your specific skin use, which not only helps keep the oils fresh, but also the coolness feels great on your skin!

4. Lukewarm bath: Though a hot bath may sound good after being out in the cold, a lukewarm water bath is better for your skin. Adding some baby oil and/or colloidal oatmeal (at pharmacies) or glycerine to it can also help overly dry skin. Use your moisturizer after your bath to lock water against the skin.

5. Add a Humidifier: If your furnace can have a humidifier placed on it, do so, it is well worth the extra expense to keep your home comfortable with a good moisture level. Or, you can place small electric humidifiers throughout your house which can create comfort in bedrooms and living rooms, the places you spend the most time.

As I tell my patients, even though dry, itchy, chapped skin can be very uncomfortable, take heart, you can banish winter skin! If you follow some of the simple, and inexpensive, remedies outlined above, I think you'll find your winter skin becomes a whole lot easier to live in!

Jay Brachfeld, M.D.


Author's Bio: 

•BS Chemistry Massachusetts Institute of Technology
•MD State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine
•Dermatology Residency: Baylor College of Medicine
•Board Certified in Dermatology
•Member American Academy of Dermatology