IT’S WINTER. ITCH. SCRATCH. REPEAT.

If your skin is as dry as all the sand in the Sahara, maybe it’s time to do something other than kvetch about it. Fortunately, the skin wunderkinds at Midwest Dermatology have a few pieces of advice for those of us with eczema, psoriasis or just plain old itchy, scratchy skin. Let’s start with some tips that will bring immediate (yeah!) relief.

When bathing:

  • Keep the bathroom door shut when you’re showering. Building steam reduces dry air in the room and adds moisture to your skin.
  • Limit showers and baths to 10 minutes or less.
  • Use warm rather than hot water. While super-hot water feels great on a cold winter morning, the heat dries your skin. That few minutes of pleasure will turn up the misery index later in the day when you can’t keep your hands off your itchy head and body.
  • Wash with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser.
  • Apply enough cleanser to remove dirt and oil but avoid using so much that you see a thick lather.
  • After bathing, blot your skin gently dry with a towel and seal in the hydration by slathering on moisturizer while skin is still damp.

When moisturizing:

  • Always apply and generous amount of moisturizer all over immediately after bathing. Moisturizer applied to damp skin does a better job at keeping skin hydrated than moisturizer applied to totally dry skin.
  • MWD dermatologists recommend using moisturizers with a ceramide enhanced formula with enzymes to promote a healthy skin barrier. Look for a formula that moisturizes and nourishes dry, flaky, sensitive skin with moisture-binding hyaluronic acid, plant-based lipids and other natural ingredients.

Pro tip: Elta MD’s Moisture Rich Body Crème is a great product for daily moisture. Plus, it’s fragrance-free and paraben-free for even the most sensitive skin.

When trying to get through winter:

  • Stay warm without cozying up to a fireplace or other heat source. Sitting in front of an open flame or your heat vent can dry skin.
  • Avoid going to saunas and steam baths. Traditional saunas have temperatures that range from an arid 140 to 195 degrees. In the steam room, open pores may be more susceptible to infection. Plus, going from a balmy room filled with steam into cold winter air can shock skin and cause irritation.
  • Choose non-irritating clothes and laundry detergent. When skin is dry and raw, even clothes and laundry detergent can be irritating. If you must wear wool or other scratchy fabric, wear cotton or silk underneath. Use laundry detergent labeled “hypoallergenic” or labelled “for sensitive skin.” These soaps contain fewer fragrances and harsh ingredients that can irritate skin.
  • Use a humidifier while sleeping. It will add moisture to air, which in turn can soothe dry skin, keep it hydrated, and can prevent and relieve chapped skin on your nose and lips.
  • Avoid using heated bed blankets. You may be looking forwarded to the warm feeling but that heat not only dries out skin, but also makes itchy skin even itchier!

When you may need to see a doctor:

If these DIY tips don’t stop of lessen the itchiness, you may have a medical condition that requires care from your dermatologist.

Eczema is one you’ve probably heard of – it’s a chronic skin condition characterized by a dry, itchy rash. On cold winter days, eczema can flare up due to excessive drying of the skin, and skin can become extremely red, itchy, bumpy, scaly or blistered. 

At Midwest Dermatology, we take a multi-pronged approach to treating eczema. Mild cases can be treated with topical medication. In other cases, oral drugs can control the itch. For immediate relief, our dermatologists may offer an injection (in your hip) of a steroid containing cortisone that will relieve inflammation, redness and itchiness.

Psoriasis is the other condition most associated with itchy skin – it’s often characterized by thick, scaly plaques, especially on the elbows, knees and scalp. Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disease that affects your body’s production of skin cells.

At Midwest Dermatology, our physicians treat psoriasis first in a variety of ways. The first line of defense usually includes topical creams and ointments, medicated shampoos and traditional oral medications. However, if needed, MWD doctors will prescribe stronger drugs (including the new biologics that are often featured in splashy TV and magazine ads).

Get started on stopping the itch today by making an appointment with your Midwest Dermatology physician.