In winter months, maintaining a healthy skin barrier can be particularly challenging. With Colorado’s cold and dry air, many Coloradoans will suffer from Winter’s Itch in the upcoming months. Winter’s Itch is a dermatologic condition that causes recurrent itchy skin during the winter. When mild, you may notice widespread dry, intermittently itchy skin. If severe, you may suffer from a persistent red, flakey, itchy rash that requires medical attention.
There are many treatment options for Winter’s Itch, both natural remedies and pharmaceutical options. All are focused at maintaining a healthy, hydrated skin barrier and reducing inflammation. If prone to Winter’s Itch, start by using the simplest products.
Moisturizers with many fragrances and added substances can cause irritation or even allergy when applied to an already disrupted skin barrier. Look for products which say “fragrance-free” and be cautious of marketing tricks. Products labeled as “scentless” are not as good as “fragrance-free” because they often have a masking fragrance which can aggravate the skin. Products that say “as gentle as fragrance-free” aren’t enough, since they can provoke skin allergy. “Natural” and “organic” may be better for the environment but aren’t necessarily safe for your skin. Poison ivy is natural and organic, but it can wreak havoc on your skin! Great brands of moisturizers to try for Winter’s Itch are Vanicream, CeraVe, and Cetaphil. Buy creams instead of lotions, since “the thicker the better” for hydrating your skin.
Minimizing or avoiding soap is another great trick for battling Winter’s Itch. Soap works by “degreasing” your skin. It removes dirt and grime, but also your skin’s natural lipids and oils. Unless physically dirty or smelly, skin doesn’t need soap. Instead of “soap,” try using a gentle “cleanser” like Dove Beauty Bar or Vanicream Cleansing Bar which will cleanse the skin, but not strip its natural moisture.
The best time to apply moisturizer is directly after the shower or bath, when your skin is still slightly damp. This will lock in the moisture from the shower. Once a day application is enough for most. If your Winter’s Itch is severe you may need to reapply the moisturizer a second time in the day or seek medical care.
Winter’s Itch tends to recur yearly, so starting these habits before your symptoms begin would work best!
Read more in Part One: “Your Armpit & Eyebrow
Critters are Different”
- Blog content written by Laura Huff, MD