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Lose the winter itch and dryness

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Got alligator skin? Dry itchy winter skin is a common problem during the cold months and its effects can be painful – causing the skin to flake, itch, crack and even bleed. Most skin issues can be handled at home – dermatologists say there are ways people can find relief by implementing a few changes to their daily lives.

“It’s tempting, especially in cold weather, to take long, hot showers, but being in the water for a long time and using hot water can be extremely drying to the skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Stephen P. Stone, MD, FAAD, professor of dermatology and director of clinical research, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield. “Keep your baths and showers short and make sure you use warm, not hot water. Switching to a mild cleanser can also help reduce itching and be sure to gently pat the skin dry after your bath or shower as rubbing the skin can be irritating.”

Dr. Stone shares more tips to relieve dry itchy winter skin:

• Apply moisturizer after getting out of the bath or shower. Ointments and creams tend to be more effective than lotions.

• Read ingredients on skin care products. Deodorant soaps, alcohol-based toners and products that contain fragrance can irritate dry, sensitive skin.

• Use a humidifier to add much-needed moisture to the air.

• Wear soft fabrics that breathe, such as 100 percent cotton. If you want to wear wool and other rough fabrics, wear a soft fabric underneath.

• Don’t skimp on hand washing, which can remove harmful bacteria and viruses, but do apply hand cream after each hand washing. If more relief is needed, dab petroleum jelly on your hands before bed. If your hands are frequently immersed in water, wear waterproof gloves to help protect them.

“It’s very important for people to see a board-certified dermatologist if these tips do not relieve their dry skin,” says Dr. Stone. “Very dry skin may require a prescription ointment or cream, and dry skin also can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as eczema.”

This video with this article is part of the Dermatology A to Z: Video Series, which offers videos that demonstrate tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails. A new video in the series posts to the Academy’s website and YouTube channel each month.

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