As the temperatures drop and drier, windier weather develops in the winter, your skin will feel different. “Cold weather and low humidity put a strain on the outer skin layer, leading to tiny cracks, loss of hydration, and inflammation,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of clinical and cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai hospital in New York City.
And when these weather changes take effect, “there can be less moisture in the outside air, which in turn, provides less moisture to the skin,” says Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Los Angeles. “Strong winds will dry and irritate the skin, and potentially damage the skin’s protective lipid barrier.”
Add to that your hotter, longer showers — which are a dermatological no-no when it comes to saving your skin — and it’s imperative to be even more diligent in finding and using the right moisturizers from head to toe. “This will help maintain a healthier skin barrier,” Dr. Shainhouse explains.
To that end, here are five common causes of dry, cracked skin in the winter — plus the hydrating lotions and potions dermatologists swear by to help save your skin.
1. Lower Humidity Levels Can Reduce Skin Hydration
“When humidity is low, the skin needs to work extra hard to lock in hydration to the outer skin layer,” says Dr. Zeichner. Be sure to use a gentle cleanser, adds Shainhouse, because compared with summertime, the skin is likely less greasy this time of year and doesn’t need harsh, drying ingredients.
2. Colder Temps May Discourage SPF Use, Leaving Your Skin Unprotected
Zeichner says cold temperatures have a similar effect to that of lower humidity. And when it’s cold out, “it is hard to think of ultraviolet sun damage occurring, even on the sunniest of days. The UV rays do still reach Earth’s surface, even though we don’t feel warm, and they reflect off white snow and ice,” adds Shainhouse. But, she says, “UV rays do pass through clouds and are especially strong on clear days or higher altitudes,” making it more important than ever to use a product with SPF as the final step in your skin care routine. Doing so can help prevent sunburns and reduce your risk for skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.