Parched and Peeling: On the Joys of Dry, Cracked Skin

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maxresdefaultHAVE YOU BEEN FEELING more “snake” than “snowflake” this winter? Does “snap, crackle and pop” sound more like a nightmare you’ve been having about your skin breaking off, rather than the charming sounds made by a beloved breakfast cereal? Well, you’re not the only one. Cold, dry, wintery weather can be an unforgiving adversary for anyone with that condom-like sheath of protective tissue we like to call “skin.”

Let’s take a look at some of the problems that can arise from leathery, cracked skin, and a few ways for the average Joe or Jill to battle the scratchy problems of winter lizard skin.

First off, if your skin already looks like a fractured dirt track in the Mojave Desert, you’re already a little late to the party, and perhaps in need of some emergency skin care. Fun things like atopic eczema, which can lead to split and inflamed skin, plus a whole lot of itching, can be yours if your leave that sack holding your blood and organs in unattended. While generally not life-threatening, excessively dry skin can lead to infections, as bacteria (from our nails and elsewhere) have a greater chance of getting beneath our epidermis.

Like someone running his or her fingernails down a chalkboard, the sensation of dry skin can be extremely unpleasant. For some folks, especially on their fingers, winter dry skin can lead to cracks that bleed. If you’re a person who doesn’t want to dry out and wilt away come wintertime, here are a few basic steps and remedies (some no-nonsense, some admittedly counter-intuitive) that you can take to keep your skin from peeling of like a rattlesnake’s protective rind.

Don’t Take Hot Showers
Luke warm showers are better, even if it’s fricking cold outside. Why? Well, hot water in a shower or bath — no matter how soothing it might be for your soul — can compromise lipid (AKA fat) barriers on the skin, which leads to more dehydration. No need to go full-tilt in the other direction and take freezing showers, either. Just don’t crank up the water temperature to a tad below scalding.

Wash a Little Less
Yep, get a little grubby. Wash your face before you go to bed, of course, but don’t wash it in the morning. By limiting the amount of exposure you give the skin on your face to products that strip away oils and natural moisturizers, your skin will be in better shape, with a slightly less desiccated epidermis.

Scarves and Gloves
Protect those hands when you head out into the cold. If you have to wear wool gloves, slip on a protective cotton or silk later beneath. Harsh winds and freezing temperatures can dry you out in no time flat. Stay cozy and moisturized beneath your layers when you have to brave the elements.

Moisturize Often
This one is a no-brainer. When you start to dry out, and even before then (anticipation is key), moisturize your skin. Seek out oil-based moisturizers that will help add a protective layer of oil (holding the moisturizer in) on your skin.

Get a Humidifier
Dry air equals dry skin. Get a humidifier and combat the dry air your heating system is circulating around your house. More moisture in the air means more moisture, hopefully, for your skin.

Avoid Booze and Caffeine
Booze and caffeine are diuretics, which make you pee more, which can lead to dehydration. Of course, any alcohol-based products that you apply directly to your skin will dry your skin out as well. Winter might be a nice time for a glass of rum, but only one glass — otherwise you could dry up and blow away with the next arctic gust.

H2O, Baby
Drinking water won’t immediately affect the appearance of dry skin, but it does promote good health, and it will help keep you hydrated and prepped to deal with the cold and dry air attacking your largest organ — your skin.

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