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How to Protect Your Skin from Winter Dryness

woman rubbing moisturizer onto her dry hands, the moisturizer is shaped like a heart
FotoDuets/Shutterstock

Winter is coming (sorry, we had to), and with it comes cracked hands, chapped lips, and patchy cheeks: aka winter dryness. In this article, we’ll help you learn to protect yourself from dry winter skin.

What Causes Winter Dryness

Why does skin get so dry in the winter? Basically, your skin acts as a barrier that keeps harmful substances out of your body and keeps good things (like moisture) in your body. Just like any other barrier (i.e., walls, a fence, etc.), your skin undergoes damage as it ages. It gets thinner, weaker, and can need some repairs to help it continue to do its job.

During the winter, your skin experiences even more damage than normal. There’s less moisture in the air during the winter months, which makes it harder for your skin to replenish and retain the moisture it needs. Similarly, harsh weather can strip your skin of its natural oils, meaning you might need outside support to fix that damage. Let’s dig into what can help prevent and treat winter dryness.

Pick the Right Moisturizer . . . and Use It Often

The best way to deal with winter dryness is to never experience it in the first place. Adding or changing up the moisturizer you use in your skin care regime can help prevent dryness from occurring in the first place.

During the winter, you might need to use a thicker moisturizer than you use during the summer. Ointments such as petroleum jelly can help form a strong barrier between your skin and the harsh elements. If petroleum jelly is too greasy for your skin, look for a thick cream. Your moisturizer should have ingredients like oil and shea butter to help do its job.

Once you’ve found the right moisturizer, you need to use it! You should moisturize every single day. In the winter months, you might find you need to moisturize twice or more a day. Keeping a small tin of your moisturizer in your backpack or purse can help you moisturize as needed. While you’re at it, don’t forget about your lips.

Purchase a Humidifier

During the winter, the air is often less humid. Not only is there less humidity in the environment, but indoor heating can suck up the moisture from the air. Grab a humidifier and keep it at around 40 percent humidity to prevent this.

Take Cooler and Shorter Showers

I know: In the winter, the last thing you want to do is take a cooler shower. But long, hot showers can actually sap the moisture from your skin. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. Keep your showers under five minutes and stick to lukewarm water to help your body retain moisture. Bonus: Shorter showers are better for the environment, too, and if you dial the temperature back to downright chilly, you can even use the shower to help you fall asleep faster.

Stick with Gentle Cleansers

Washing your face is just as important as moisturizing it, but harsh cleansers can strip your skin of the oil it needs during the winter. Avoid exfoliants or scented soaps during the winter months, as these can dry out or damage your already sensitive skin.

Pay Attention to When There’s Something Else Going On

Many people experience dryness during the winter months, but if your skin isn’t getting better with the remedies suggested in this article, something else might be going on.

Some inflammatory skin conditions, like psoriasis, require prescription medication to treat. Fungal infections, on the other hand, can mirror dry skin . . . but also need a doctor to treat. It’s better to be safe than sorry: If your dry skin is causing serious damage to your quality of life, then see a physician. They may be able to recommend something that can help.


By using the preventative methods outlined in this article, you can stop winter dryness in its tracks. Remember, everyone’s skin is different, so it might take some experimentation to find that combination of treatments that’s right for you.

Hayley Milliman Hayley Milliman
Hayley is a former Teach for America teacher turned curriculum developer and writer. Over the past five years, she's written hundreds of articles on everything from education to personal finance to history. She's co-author of the book Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females. Read Full Bio »

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