Scaling, splitting, irritating: Local dermatologist on winter dry skin, treatment & when to see a doctor

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Posted at 7:21 AM, Jan 13, 2021

Scaling, splitting and irritating pain. For many, dry skin is an old enemy that always makes its return, especially during the winter months.

Dr. Valerie Harvey, a dermatologist with TPMG Hampton Roads Center for Dermatology, says it's a common problem for many of her clients right now.

"Dry skin is a frequent complaint that I see in my clinic," said Dr. Harvey. "It's cold outside, everyone has their heat on, hence the dryness in the air."

But, she says, there are ways to fight it. Her advice?

  • Avoid super hot showers or baths and use lukewarm water instead. Hot water can dry out and damage the skin.
  • Once you leave the shower, Dr. Harvey suggests dabbing to dry your skin and moisturizing.
  • Moisturize not only after showers, but when you get out of bed and just before bed too.
  • Swap out lotions for more effective creams and ointments. They are richer and more occlusive, Dr. Harvey says.
  • Avoid products with alcohol and witch-hazel because they can make dry skin worse.
  • Use a humidifier

If these steps are taken and dry skin doesn't start clearing up within a couple weeks, Dr. Harvey says that could indicate a different problem.

"Skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis can mimic dry skin and so if you're not getting better that's when I say you need to schedule an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist who can examine and diagnose you," she said.

Dr. Harvey says taking care of dry skin is important because it can predispose a person to superficial skin infections.

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