How To Avoid Getting Dry, Scaly Skin This Winter

Dry skin is a common problem during the winter months, when the skin is exposed to colder temperatures and lower levels of moisture in the air. This drop-in air humidity compromises your skins ability to retain moisture and can leave your skin dry, itchy and scaly. 

We asked Dr Adrian Lim, Sydney-based Dermatologist and Fellow of the Australasian College of Dermatologists, why we get dry, sensitive and scaly skin in winter, and what we can do to try and avoid it.

“Skin is sensitive to winter’s lower temperature and air humidity. Lower temperature and air humidity both cause a general decrease in skin barrier function and increases the likelihood of skin ‘stress’.

“Exposure to the cold causes the skins blood vessels to constrict, which reduces the sebum secretion. Sebum is an oily substance which serves to moisturise and protect the skin,” says Dr Lim.

“Winter also usually means greater exposure to central heating, which reduces air moisture and contributes further to skin dehydration.

Here are Dr Lim’s expert tips on how to keep your skin hydrated, soft and smooth this winter:

1. Opt for warm not hot

While heaters, fires and long hot showers seem like necessities in winter, they can strip the protective oils from your skin, leaving it vulnerable to drying out. Central heating is one of the most common physical skin irritants because it causes a reduction in air moisture. Where possible, reach for a jumper rather than the thermostat, and try and reduce showers by either a few degrees or a few minutes.

2. Moisturise your skin immediately after a shower or bath.

Moisturisers work by lathering the skins surface with an oily film to reduce moisture loss. Look for moisturisers containing ingredients such as shea butter, mineral oils, lactic acid, hyaluronic acid waxes, fatty acids, and glycerides.

3. Mix and match oils and moisturisers

A great hack for dry and scaly legs is to mix olive, grapeseed or coconut oil with your favourite moisturiser during winter and apply immediately after showering.

4. BYO hand cream

Carrying a non-greasy hand cream with you and applying immediately after washing your hands can also help to protect the skin from drying out.

5. Stay hydrated

We tend to drink less water in winter than summer as we don’t get as thirsty, but with less moisture in the air, dehydration can still be an issue in winter. Drinking plenty of water helps hydrate you from the inside out and can improve skin elasticity.

If you have persistent dry skin which stings, chaps or bleeds, consider seeing a dermatologist for expert advice. Dermatologists are specialists in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of skin diseases and cancers. Discuss any skin, hair or nail concerns with your GP and they will advise whether you need a referral to a dermatologist for specialist advice, and to find your best treatment plan.

The Australasian College of Dermatologists (ACD) is Australia’s leading authority for dermatology. For more information or to find a dermatologist who can help you to manage your skin, hair or nail condition visit

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