Dry Skin in Winter - Causes, Risk Factors and How to Cope With It

By Dr. Ajita Bagai Kakkar in Dermatology

Jun 30 , 2014 | 1 min read

Dry skin is a common skin problem that gets more persistent during winters, although some people are more susceptible to this condition. Anyone can suffer - regardless of age, gender or skin type.

Dry skin occurs when the skin's outer protective layer (Stratum Corneum) is depleted of water and its natural moisturizing factors. Most cases of dry skin respond well to self-care but some cases with persistent dry skin do require medical care.

Also check- Common skin conditions in winter and their prevention

Dry Skin Causes in Winter

  • Ageing: There is depletion of natural moisturizing factors in the skin with age, which is more evident in women.
  • Environmental: Exposure to low humidity in winters (winter itch) and it is worsened with central heating and air-conditioning.
  • External Factors: Long hot showers, excessive cold, exposure to drair, over-usage of detergents and soaps.
  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Dry Skin can be a symptom of many medical conditions like- Atopic dermatitis. Eczemas, Hypothyroidism Kidney disease, Diabetes, Malignancies Nutritional deficiency, HIV, Patients undergoing radiation therapy and due to intake of medication/drugs.

Risk Factors

  • Dry skin is more common in elderly and in infants.
  • Skin in infants produces less oil and is more susceptible to environmental factors.
  • Those whose occupation requires outdoor work in harsh climates, in low humidity, or frequent contact with soaps, detergents, water and solvents tend to suffer from dry skin.


Dry skin can lead to severe itching, cracks and fissures (especially on hands, feet and lips) as well as eczemas. Dry skin can also lead to change in skin texture and early wrinkling.

Taking Care of Dry Skin in Winter

Following are the tips to cope with dry skin winter:

  1. Increase intake of water
  2. Indoor dry air can be reduced by using humidifiers.
  3. Take short, lukewarm showers/baths
  4. Use soap sparingly or switch to soap substitutes with PH similar to that of skin (4.5 , 5.5) Add an oil or emollient to bath-water
  5. Avoid vigorous rubbing of skin and pat dry after bath
  6. Most importantly, apply a moisturizer immediately after bath on slightly damp skin.
  7. Moisturizers can be in the form of liquid paraffin, petroleum jelly, glycerine etc.
  8. Exfoliating agents like salicylic acid and Alpha hydroxyl acids reduce the scaling and flaking To keep dry skin at bay it is important to make long lasting changes.

Seek medical help if a dry skin condition persists for long or self-care is not yielding the desired Results. Consult with the best dermatologist in Delhi.

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