A hot steamy bath might feel good during the winter months but it could leave your skin hanging out to dry. Doctors at Baylor College of Medicine say the higher temperatures at bath time increase dry skin, which could have long-term damaging effects.
Instead, Dr. Rajani Katta, professor of dermatology at Baylor, recommends showering with lukewarm water for no more than 10 to 15 minutes during wintery months.
“Even though long hot showers feel soothing to the skin during cold weather, it is actually hard on the skin,” she said. “The high water temperature and the evaporation of water off the skin, once out of the shower, causes the skin to become drier.”
Katta recommended patting partially dry and using moisturizer cream while skin is still damp after a shower.
“Moisturizer can make a huge difference,” she explained. “I recommend creams over lotions because lotions contain a larger amount of water and don’t lock in moisture as well as creams and ointments.”
Lotions are typically packaged with a pump and can be distinguished from creams by the lighter feel. Creams are half oil and half water, which makes it thicker, and is typically sold in tubs or tubes. Ointments, such as petroleum jelly, are the oiliest and may be used on extremely dry skin.
Using gentle soaps and thick moisturizers can help protect against skin inflammation and eczema flare ups. Katta mentioned seeing more eczema cases and an increased number of patients with inflamed skin due to the cold.
“Very dry skin, if not reversed, can progress to skin inflammation and eczema, which calls for a different course of treatment,” she added.
Signs of skin inflammation are
Inflammation also can be seen on the lips. Katta warned against licking lips as this dries the skin out over time and causes the vicious cycle of chapped lips. She said lip balm or petroleum jelly can be used as a protectant and moisturizer.
Katta stressed the importance of adding these few extra steps to skin care routines during the wintertime. “These are such easy changes to your winter routine, but they can make a big difference in terms of preventing more severe skin problems.”