Your Health Questions Answered

What's the Best Way to Heal Dry Skin?

Florida's constantly changing weather can wreak havoc on your skin. Here's what to look for in a healing product.

By Allison Forsyth January 27, 2021

Image: Kari Perrin

Between the increased amount of hand washing and the use of alcohol-based sanitizers because of the Covid-19 pandemic and Florida's constantly changing winter temperatures, this season has wreaked havoc on many people who deal with dry, cracked and flaky skin. Are there any ingredients we should be looking for in our skin products to help heal? Dr. Cathy Milam of Milam Bogart Dermatology has a few recommendations for those dealing dry skin conditions during this time of year.

"As soon as the humidity drops, patients will notice a huge difference in how dry and flaky skin becomes," says Milam. "Usually, from the time of Thanksgiving until February is when patients notice a significant change in skin texture."

Milam says the best products, such a lotions and serums, are those free of fragrances and alcohol, and are safe for everyday use. She suggests brands that have been dermatologist-tested, like Neutrogena, CeraVe, Aveeno and Eucerin.

If you still have dry skin even though you make a point to moisturize, you may not be using enough of the product, or not using it effectively. Milam suggests moisturizing liberally, and doing so right after you get out of the shower, while your skin is still damp, to trap moisture, and showering less frequently, to avoid skin dryness. When moisturizing your face, use a thicker product at night and a thin one for daytime use.

And to get rid of those pesky dry flakes on the forehead and nose? Use an exfoliating brush or sponge as opposed to a product containing scrubbing beads or pieces.

"Exfoliant products with little beads or pieces of walnut or apricot can be really harsh on skin, stripping away skin's natural layers," says Milam. "If you are going to exfoliate with a product, look for one that is gentle, without scrubbing pieces in them, and use a brush or washcloth to manually exfoliate."

What about if you have skin conditions that create dry skin, like eczema and dermatitis? Avoiding ingredients like glycolic acid (used to treat acne) is helpful, especially when your skin is already inflamed. A combination of over-the-counter and prescription products can be useful during this time of year, from lotions like Eucerin for eczema and topical steroid creams with 1 percent hydrocortisone. Natural ingredients like oatmeal are also really soothing for irritated skin.

"If you suffer from eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis on the hand and feet, try lathering up with cream and putting socks or gloves on overnight," says Milam. "The worst thing to do with these conditions is take long, hot showers. They should be quick and tepid, and skin should be dabbed dry."

While there are many home remedies that people tout during the winter months, like rubbing coconut oil, avocado oil or vitamin E on the skin, Milam says sticking to dermatologist-tested and -approved products is best.

"Ultimately, I tell patients to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize," says Milam. "That is why you need a large amount of lotion, especially with all the hand washing we are doing right now, and with one that's cost effective, so you can apply liberally."

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