Winter Skin Survival Guide

By Jeanne Ellern, PA-C

Winter in the Pacific Northwest brings us cold weather, wind, and a decrease in humidity. When the weather turns colder, we turn the heat up, lowering the humidity inside our homes. These changes in the temperature and the conditions around us make it difficult for the skin to retain moisture. Winter Skin is dry skin.

Keeping Your Skin Healthy in Winter

As the temperatures drop, symptoms you may notice on your skin are flaky, dry, rough patches, cracks in the skin, stinging, and itching. It’s essential to rehydrate the skin and prevent further water loss. In addition, dry, itchy skin needs moisture and some extra care. These are some recommendations for your skin’s winter survival:

  1. Moisturize – This is the number one thing you must do this time of the year. This is important for your entire body. Use thicker moisturizers for your face and hydrating lotions for the rest of your body and reapply throughout the day. Creams with ceramides increase water intake on your skin. If you find that you need something more, or if you need something extra for a particular spot, look for occlusives. These are a type of moisturizer that creates a protective coating on the skin’s surface and prevents moisture from escaping. Examples of occlusives include petrolatum, shea butter, and jojoba oil. This also includes beeswax, often used on lip balms, so don’t forget to moisturize your lips. Increase water intake.
  2. Use Sunscreen – Just because it’s winter does not mean you should forget about sunscreen. Whether it’s cloudy or sunny, you still need to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. Make sure the sunscreen you get covers both UVA and UVB rays, has an SPF of 30 or higher, and is something you know you will use. If you are going to be outside, make sure you reapply every so often.
  3. Try a humidifier – Humidifiers are a great way to pull moisture back into your home’s air. This will improve dry, itchy skin and help it retain that hydration. It will also help the dry, irritated sinuses you can get in the winter. Ensure you maintain them well since they can also breed bacteria and mold if not used properly.
  4. Avoid long, hot showers – Hotter showers are very tempting when it’s so cold outside, but this also dries out your skin and can irritate it. Instead, warm water will keep your skin healthier. As a bonus tip, use a hydrating lotion on your body after getting out of the shower while your skin is still moist. This will help “lock” moisture in.
  5. If you need help with itchy skin – Niacinamide is a supplement that can be taken for itching. You can also use anti-itch creams, but if you suffer from skin conditions, you need to check with your Provider before you use these.
  6. Change your skin care routines – Customizing your routines to work better for the season is a great idea. Try using gentle, fragrance-free soaps and cleansers that will not irritate your skin. Use thicker moisturizers and lotions. Add a hydrating mask once a week if your face needs hydration. Also, avoid using exfoliators and scrubs if your skin is dry this time of the year.
  7. Use protective clothing – This will not only keep your body warm, but it can protect your skin from the elements. Gloves, scarves, and hats are great items to use. Protecting your eyes using goggles or sunglasses with UV protection is also essential.

Skin Conditions That can Flare up in the Winter

Why is it so important to keep our skin healthy? The skin is the largest organ we have, and it performs some essential tasks for our body. Our skin protects us from the environment (weather, bacteria, viruses, and UV rays), regulates our temperature, produces Vitamin D when exposed to the sun (which is important for other body functions), and it provides us with sensation so we can protect ourselves from things that can hurt us. The outer layer of the skin is called the epidermis. The thin outer layer is the stratum corneum, our skin barrier. Many modalities, including cold weather can disrupt this. For certain people that suffer from chronic skin conditions, cold weather can worsen their symptoms. These conditions include psoriasis, eczema, hand dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis.

For these skin conditions, it is vital that you check in with your Dermatology Provider to make sure that you have a plan in place for the winter. Because each individual may have different triggers, severity of symptoms, etc., you want a program that will work for you. At Advanced Dermatology & Skin Surgery, we have various treatments that, alone or in combination, can help ease those symptoms. Treatment can include topical steroid creams, steroid injections, and light therapy (Narrowband UVB), as well as other medications as needed.

Advanced Dermatology & Skin Surgery’s Providers, including our Board-Certified Dermatologists, Certified Physician Assistants, and Nurse Practitioners, are highly qualified and motivated to help with any skin condition. We can diagnose the skin condition and work with you to find a treatment plan that works specifically for you. Please book an appointment with us at our Coeur d’Alene, Spokane North, or Spokane Valley locations.


Jeanne Ellern, PA-C – A Certified Physician Assistant working at our Spokane Valley, WA, and Coeur d’Alene, ID locations, Jeanne has spent over 15 years specializing in the field of Dermatology and is passionate about being attentive to the effect skin health has on her patients’ overall wellbeing.