We’re born with a natural skin barrier that locks in moisture. But during the winter, our skin becomes drier due to less humidity in the air, and forced-air heat where we live and work aggravates our skin even more. What results are flaky, scaly patches that may also be red and irritated.
The main treatment is a good moisturizer to rebalance the barrier and restore ceramides (building blocks of skin), cholesterol and fatty acids, which are all part of healthy skin. Some moisturizers, such as Vaseline, add a barrier that prevents water from evaporating from the skin. Moisturizing soaps contain humectants, which draw moisture out of the air and attract it to your skin. Using a humidifier and wearing breathable cotton clothes, which allow your body to regulate its temperature better than synthetic fabric, will further protect your skin during the winter.
Jeanine B. Downie, M.D., is a dermatologist in Montclair, N.J.