When the air is cold and contains less humidity during winter months, we tend to do things to stay warm — such as run the heat in our homes and crank up the hot water in the shower — that contribute to dry skin.
Dr. Laurie Good, dermatologist at Memorial Regional Health, said it’s just as important in Colorado’s dry climate to use a daily moisturizing cream from head-to-toe as it is to drink water.
“The older you are, the more important that is because we become less adept at retaining moisture with age,” she said.
Dry skin conditions
When skin becomes abnormally dry, itchy and cracked, it’s called asteatotic eczema — a condition that Dr. Good sees a lot of in the wintertime.
“We also see a lot of seborrheic dermatitis — which is the medical term for dandruff — as we transition from one season to another. This typically presents with an itchy, flaky scalp, but it also commonly occurs between the eyebrows, the sides of the nose and in the ears,” she said. “The change in temperature, humidity and bathing habits can all contribute to flare of ‘seb derm.’”
In addition to the itchy, dry and cracked skin, asteatotic eczema can also include little dry pink bumps, sometimes with a dry riverbed appearance, Dr. Good said. This most commonly occurs on the back, flank and lower legs or ankles.
Seborrheic dermatitis, or dandruff, usually presents with a greasy, yellow scale and sometimes itching on the scalp and central face.
If you have asteatotic eczema, you should see a dermatologist if the itchy skin doesn’t resolve or significantly improve after reducing shower temperature and applying daily moisturizing cream. It’s also time to visit the doctor if the condition appears to truly be a rash and not just marks from scratching, or if there are any other symptoms or locations associated with the itching, Dr. Good said.
If you have typical scalp or facial dandruff, Dr. Good said using the Clinical Strength Head and Shoulders in alternation with Neutrogena T/Sal shampoo (both are over-the-counter) can be very effective.
“If it does not resolve with showering three times weekly with one or the other above shampoos, seeing a dermatologist is a reasonable next step,” she said.