Feature Archive

Beat the Itch of Winter Skin

By John Casey
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD

From simple dry, cracked skin to eczema, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis, the cold, wind, and low humidity of winter can worsen just about every kind of skin condition.

"A vicious cycle develops," says Ella L. Toombs, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of Aesthetic Dermatology of Dupont Circle, in Washington, D.C.

The dry air of winter pulls moisture from the skin, which then tends to peel, crack, and shed excessively, Toombs says. This increased loss of skin cells results in increased oil and water loss. This leads to more dry skin. Also, the forced hot air of indoor heating systems contributes substantially.

"Remember going on vacation to a warm tropical climate and how smooth the skin felt without any moisturizer?" she says. "That's because the humidity in the atmosphere kept the naturally produced oils on the skin and the superficial cells soft and adherent so that oils were not lost."