Medically Approved

How to treat dry skin in the winter

Dry skin treatment

Optum Perks Author

By Optum Perks Author


Dry skin is a disease of the skin common in both men and women alike. Skin becomes dry because it does not have enough water in the top-most layer, the epidermis. People with dry skin experience symptoms such as:

  • Irresistible itching
  • Rough dry and red patches on the skin
  • Cracks, when the condition is severe

These symptoms mostly occur on the hands, forearms, lower legs and abdomen. Causes of dry skin include:

  • excessive use of hard soaps, sanitizers and cleaning agents: they remove too much natural oil from the skin, and you may feel your skin tighten after using them
  • cold temperature and low humidity
  • genetics
  • one's general health

Regardless of all causes, however, the dry skin condition is more common in the cold winter season, and though it may be just a seasonal illness, if not well taken care of, it may result in a more severe and permanent condition.

Types of dry skin

There are many different lifestyle remedies meant for treatment of dry skin. If these home remedies cannot treat your dry skin, then the condition may be a medical condition known as dermatitis. Extremely dry skin comes in four types, namely:

  • Allergic dermatitis - some substances react with your skin causing an allergic reaction. This condition is known as eczema that makes your skin turn red and itchy.
  • Atopic dermatitis - this is a hereditary condition characterized by extremely dry skin.
  • Contact dermatitis: caused by irritating chemical agents. The skin is inflamed, e.g., poison oak.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: this is as a result of too much oil from your skin. The outcome is a red and scaly rash on the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis is most common in infants.

Dry winter weather skin

The common symptom of itching during winter, which people refer to as the winter itch, is a symptom of dry skin, a seasonal illness caused by low temperatures and humidity that characterize the winter season. This is more common in older people since over time they have lost most of their skin's natural oils. It is also widespread among people who have had asthma, eczema and allergies before.

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The use of a heater indoors usually doesn't help with dry skin, as it lessens the humidity even further. A long hot shower does not make things better either because the hot water takes away natural skin oils. To treat dry winter weather the best method is to turn on a humidifier along with that heater. If you experience dry skin as a result of the dry winter weather or any other cause, it is easily treatable, whether over the counter or medically.

Over the counter treatments for dry skin

When the dry skin condition isn't serious, there are effective over the counter medications. Many moisturizing creams and lotions can treat a mild dry skin condition, and you do not need a prescription for these products. It is important, however, to note that just because a skin care product worked for one individual does not mean that it will work for you. We all have different types of skin.


Our skin's needs also vary according to the weather. What works for your skin during spring and summer may not be what it needs during winter. Have as much information as possible about your skin and its needs before you go for any OTC treatment.

Medical treatments for dry skin

When a dry skin condition is severe, or when local home remedies and over-the-counter drugs fail, it's time to see a doctor. Better still, see a dermatologist who has specific knowledge and training to properly treat skin ailments. These specialists will analyze and diagnose your skin problem before prescribing any drugs. A specialist should be able to tell your skin type and the likely causes of your skin conditions. They can then help prescribe the appropriate drugs and the skin care products that you should be using.


A doctor can also tell you if your skin condition is being caused by an underlying health issue. You may be suffering another illness with dry skin as just a symptom. Such information is what makes medical treatment the best way to go for severe dry skin conditions.