Dry skin can be a terrible problem in winter, especially here in Minnesota. We asked Dr. Matt Larson a few of the most common questions about dry skin, and his top tips for reducing dry skin in the coming months. 

What causes dry skin? Dry skin can be caused by both external and internal factors. External factors include low humidity, frequent washing and cold temperatures. Internal factors include problems with one’s natural skin barrier system, eczema is one example.

How can you help alleviate dry skin? Use a gentle soap only where needed (underarms and underwear areas), and increase the use of thick moisturizers.

What are the best moisturizers to use, or ingredients to look for? Generally, the thicker the better. Ointments (Aquaphor, Vaniply, and Vaseline) are more moisturizing than creams (Cetaphil, CeraVe, and Vanicream), and creams are more moisturizing than lotions. I recommend using at least a cream if not an ointment. Lotions just aren’t moisturizing enough and contain more preservatives.

What should we use to keep lips moisturized? Again, ointments work best. When the lips are really dry use either Aquaphor or plain Vaseline (petrolatum) as many times per day as possible.

Why does the scalp get irritated in the winter? What can we do? There is a condition called seborrheic dermatitis that flares in the fall and winter. Starting an over the counter dandruff shampoo should help. Make sure to use it as scalp medicine though and let the lather sit on the scalp for a few minutes before it is rinsed away. If this isn’t helping make sure to see your board certified dermatologist.

What are your best tips for avoiding dry skin this winter?

  • Avoid hot baths or showers
  • Use a gentle soap (Cetaphil, CeraVe, Dove, or Vanicream)
  • Use soap only where needed (underarms and underwear areas)
  • Moisturize immediately after getting out of the bath or shower
  • Use lip balm with petrolatum (Vaseline, Aquaphor)
  • Cover up outdoors with a hat, scarf and glove
  • Even though it’s winter, don’t forget the sunscreen!


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