Help for dry winter skin

Help for Winter Skin

Jan 30, 2024 Dermatology , Urgent Care Share:

Alabama is warm and humid for much of the year. But our winters are often cool and dry, pulling the moisture from our skin and making it look a bit worse for wear.

But there’s no need to suffer just because it’s cold outside. Our guide to winter skin examines some common skin conditions that can get worse during the winter - and provides you with helpful tips for keeping your skin looking and feeling healthy.

Winter Skincare Basics

Have you ever wondered why skin problems seem to be worse in the winter? Cold air holds less moisture, and skin tends to reflect the humidity level around it. At the same time, the harsh winds and rain can strip the skin of its natural, moisturizing oils.

Outdoor elements aren’t the only factor – the heaters we turn on in the winter can dry out the indoor air. Some people also struggle to stay hydrated during the winter.

This combination of conditions can result in a host of skin issues, including dry, dull, or cracked skin and lips, eczema and psoriasis flare-ups, and keratosis pilaris.

Caring for your skin in winter often begins with moisture. In the winter, you can practice some basic habits to keep your skin looking and feeling healthy:

  • Change up your bathing routine. Try to take shorter, cooler showers. Although a long, hot shower may sound tempting when it’s cold outside, it can make dry skin worse. When you’re done, pat, rather than rub, wet skin dry with a soft towel and apply a rich, alcohol-free moisturizer immediately afterward.
  • Add moisture to the environment. We all love to complain about the humidity in Alabama, but it’s actually pretty good for your skin. You can’t add moisture outside, but you can use a cool-mist humidifier to add moisture to your home.
  • Moisturize your skin. Add moisture back to your skin whenever you can. Apply lotion after washing your hands, use oils or petroleum jelly to lock in moisture on your face and body, and use lip ointments when needed.
  • Stay hydrated. You already know you need to stay hydrated when it’s hot outside, but it’s just as important in the wintertime. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids, especially if you’re sick. Cold water isn’t your only option. Hot teas and broths can help you warm up and keep you hydrated.

A few skin conditions may also need some specific care. In some cases, you may need to see your primary care doctor or dermatologist to keep your skin healthy throughout the winter.

Dry Skin

Dry skin is when your skin loses too much moisture (water and oil) and becomes dehydrated. Your skin suffers from scaling, itching, and cracking, which can be highly uncomfortable.

Dryness to the skin barrier can lead to:

  • Flaky or rough skin texture
  • Excessive itchiness
  • Cracks
  • Stinging or sensitive skin

Basic winter skincare can improve most cases of dry skin. However, if your dry skin gets worse or begins to crack, you may need to visit your dermatologist or an urgent care doctor.

Chapped Lips

Chapped lips result from dry, cracked skin on your lips due to a lack of moisture. Several factors, such as the weather, excessive licking, or certain medications, cause chapped lips.

Typical symptoms of chapped lips include:

  • Dryness
  • Cracked, peeling, or flaking lips
  • Bleeding
  • Redness
  • Burning, stinging, tingling, or itchiness
  • Swelling
  • Scaly texture
  • Numbness

Dry and damaged lips need moisture. Make sure to use lip balm or lip ointments to care for your chapped lips. Avoid licking your lips; although it may seem like a way to add moisture, it actually removes moisture from your lips. You should also avoid picking or exfoliating your lips, since these actions can cause further damage.

Home care can improve most cases of chapped lips. However, chapped lips that don't heal can be a sign of infection or a more serious problem.

Cracked Hands and Feet

The skin on our hands and feet loses moisture quickly. Excessive dryness can cause the skin to become brittle, leading to cracked skin on the hands and feet, which appear as small tears or cracks in the skin called fissures.

Symptoms of cracked hands or feet include:

  • Pain, itching, or bleeding
  • Red or scaly, dry skin
  • Skin often looks yellow or dark brown
  • Thick or calloused skin

If you’re prone to cracked hands or feet in the wintertime, your hands will need extra care and protection. Make sure to wear gloves when you go outside or when performing tasks that will get your hands wet, such as cleaning or washing the dishes. Wear thick, wool socks to protect your feet. You can also apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly to your hands or feet before bed, covering them with a pair of cotton gloves or socks while you sleep.

Because the cracks form a break in the skin barrier, people with cracked hands or feet are more prone to infection. If your cracked hands or feet get worse, or if you have pain, heat, or redness at the site of your cracks, visit an urgent care doctor today.


Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition characterized by intense itching, inflamed, red patches, and flaky or scaly skin. It commonly appears on the face, wrists, hands, and feet.

Eczema can vary in severity and flare-ups can be triggered by several factors, including the cooler winter weather.

Symptoms of eczema vary by individual and may depend on a few factors, such as age, skin tone, and severity of the condition.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Intense itching
  • Red to brownish-gray patches
  • Small, raised bumps that may leak fluid and crust after scratching
  • Thickened, cracked, scaly skin
  • Raw, sensitive, swollen skin

Eczema requires special care. If you are experiencing symptoms of eczema for the first time or if your symptoms don’t resolve with your typical course of treatment, visit an urgent care doctor or your dermatologist. You may need prescription ointments to manage your eczema.


Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that accelerates the life cycle of skin cells, causing them to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin. This buildup forms scales and red patches that are itchy and sometimes painful. It can appear anywhere on your body, but it most commonly affects the scalp, elbows, knees, and trunk.

Sunlight and humidity help lessen psoriasis symptoms, so the dry, darker days of winter can lead to psoriasis flare-ups.

Symptoms of psoriasis include:

  • Patches of thick, red skin with silvery-white scales
  • Itchy, burning, or sore skin
  • Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
  • Thick, ridged, pitted nails
  • Swollen and stiff joints
  • Plaques of scales or crust on the scalp

If you believe you have psoriasis, do not attempt to manage your skin on your own. Most cases of psoriasis need to be treated by a doctor. Visit your dermatologist or an urgent care doctor to get the care you need. Treatment of psoriasis may include topical ointments, phototherapy, and oral or injected medications.

Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is a skin condition that causes dry, rough patches and tiny bumps that resemble goosebumps. They may cause your skin to feel like sandpaper. Keratosis pilaris bumps often appear on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, or buttocks.

Keratosis pilaris bumps result from a buildup of keratin, a protein that protects skin from harmful substances and infection, which blocks the opening of hair follicles. It tends to worsen in cool, dry conditions.

Symptoms of keratosis pilaris include:

  • Tiny painless bumps on the upper thighs, cheeks, or buttocks
  • Dry, rough skin in the affected areas
  • Bumps that may feel itchy or irritated
  • Symptoms that worsen in the winter months

Most people can manage their keratosis pilaris at home. But if the bumps or bothersome, home treatments are ineffective, or you notice signs of infection, reach out to your dermatologist or an urgent care doctor.

You don’t have to suffer from uncomfortable skin during the winter. If your winter skin is causing you grief, reach out to the compassionate providers at MedHelp in Birmingham. Walk-in visits are welcome for urgent care patients, or you can schedule an appointment with our primary care dermatologist at our 280 clinic location.

Heal Your Skin This Winter

Don't let another winter go by without getting help for your winter skin woes. Our compassionate providers are here to help. Walk-ins are always welcome for urgent care visits, or you can schedule an appointment with our primary care dermatologist.