Why Does Your Skin Get So Dry In The Winter?

There are so many wonderful things to love about winter, even if it’s not your favorite season: Festive food, limited edition coffee, and, in some parts of the world, magical snow. Unfortunately, dry skin is also an aspect of the season — but why does skin get dry in the winter?

Dry skin could affect you year-round, but it seems to be far more uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) during colder months. It’s almost as if the cold wriggles its way into the cracks in your skin and stretches out, making the tiny ravines in your skin feel huge. Coming from someone whose hands have literally bled due to suffering dry skin in the winter, I can tell you it’s no walk in the park.

Of course, you likely know how to combat the dry skin once you’ve got it — using methods like slathering the offending area in gallons of high-strength moisturizer — but there are also ways to nip these things in the bud before they get too severe. Arm yourself with expert knowledge so that you can avoid dry skin altogether by deciphering the less obvious causes of dry skin.

1. Indoor Heating

"As the temperature drops, the humidity in the air also decreases," says Dr. Hadley King, dermatologist at SKINNEY Medspa. "This is compounded by the use of indoor heating. As the air becomes drier more moisture from your skin is lost to the dry air. A humidifier is helpful because it replaces some of the moisture in the air, so it will not be as drying to your skin."

Dr. Michael Swann, board certified dermatologist, says that it's not just heating in your homes that can cause dry skin. “Heated air in our homes, offices, and cars is generally very dry," he says. "The result is that our skin thickens (the dead layer stays on longer) and can crack in response to the slower turnover and dryer conditions.”

2. Humidity Levels Drop

“Humidity levels decrease in the fall and winter months which is a main contributor to the dryness we experience in our skin," Heather Wilson, licensed esthetician and Director of Brand Development at InstaNatural, says in an email to Bustle. "Humidity levels are a representation of the water vapor content in the air, and increased humidity in the summer months provides hydration to our skin. When the temperatures drop and humidity declines, our skin’s hydration levels also decrease, causing the first signs of dryness.”

She continues, “While the weather conditions continue, our skin works hard to produce additional oil to moisturize, but for many skin types it is hard to catch up. The best way to prevent uncomfortable dryness is to know when to level up on your moisturizing products, starting early to prevent dryness."

3. You're Not Using The Right Products

When it comes to winter, your skin has different needs, so you need to meet them with the help of specific skin care products. Dr. King also believes in resorting to different products in the winter time. “Use heavy emollients to help to lock in the moisture in your skin,” she says.

According to NYC dermatologist, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, it's a whole other ball game for those suffering with acne.

“The winter time can be especially challenging for acne patients, as many acne drugs can dry out the skin," he says. "Choose lower concentrations of acne fighters like benzoyl peroxide during the winter time. 2.5% BPO has been shown to be as effective as higher, potentially more irritating concentrations like 5% or even 10%. You can also speak to your dermatologist about non-irritating, effective prescription options, like Aczone gel 7.5% that will not dry your skin out.”

4. Your Shower Temperature Is Too Hot

“Long, hot showers that strip the skin of natural oils...contribute to dryness and skin barrier dysfunction," Dr. Zeichner says. "To remedy this, opt for short lukewarm showers. Use gentle, soap free cleansers and moisturize within five minutes of getting out of the shower.”

5. You Wear Heavier Fabrics

“During the winter the skin dries and dehydrates more intensely because of many reasons including, but not limited to the use of heavy clothing in some cases,” says Dr. Christian Jurist, certified Aesthetic Medicine Specialist, Facial Specialist, and Medical Director of Global Education at Pevonia.

6. The Elements

“Our skin does an amazing job at protecting us from the elements. In the winter, our skin needs to be a stronger, thicker barrier from colder conditions. Remember that our skin is responsible for shunting blood away from the skin to keep our internal bodies warm in the winter, "says Dr. Swann.

7. Your Sebaceous Glands Are Less Functional

“Sebaceous glands that are less functional to produce oil and maintain a healthy epidermal barrier,” Dr. Jurist says. In other words, they simply don't work as well in winter, and therefore can't keep your skin moisturized.

Now you have a little more insight into why skin gets dry in the winter, so you can put preventative measures into place, or put an end to anything that may be contributing towards drying your skin out. Then, fingers crossed, you can bid good riddance to cracked, sore skin once and for all!

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