6 Dermatologist-Approved Ways to Get Rid of Dry, Flaky Skin

Winter skin? Never heard of it.

If you live in a cold climate during the winter, chances are you're freezing, bundled, and trying to look somewhat pulled together despite the elements. And underneath it all, you're probably dealing with a tight, itchy, and flaky face. We asked two New York City-based dermatologists how to cope with winter skin.

Swap out your face wash for an oil cleanser

"Oils cleanse the skin, plus they have inherently hydrating properties," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. His pick: Avene XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cleansing Oil ($32; dermstore.com)—a soothing, soap-free formula (eczema skin approved!) that helps prevent the drying effects of water. Alternatively, a product like Three Ships Clarify Tea Tree + MCT Cleansing Oil is an effective face wash for acne.

Slather on a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid

This ingredient is a humectant that pulls water into the outer layer of the skin and holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water, says Dr. Zeichner. He likes Neutrogena Hydroboost ($29; ulta.com), an editor-tested, refreshing, gel-like formula that feels light yet acts like a heavy moisturizer. It's the best drugstore moisturizer for dry skin. To maximize hydration, apply it when your skin is damp.

The same theory applies to the skin on your body: "Moisturize within five minutes of getting out of the shower to lock in hydration," Dr. Zeichner says. "Studies have shown immediate hydration to be more effective than delayed hydration. So apply body lotion swiftly and keep the bathroom door closed to increase humidity in the air. When choosing a body moisturizer, look for ceramides on the ingredient list. These help seal in the cracks between the outer skin cells." Skinfix Eczema + Extra Strength Body Cream is a good choice if you want an ultra-rich anti-itch cream to soothe sensitive skin.

Reduce the use of anti-aging ingredients

"Winter is a time when I recommend that my patients cut down on the frequency of their anti-aging ingredients, including AHA and Retin-A," says Elizabeth Hale, MD, board-certified dermatologist and vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation. "While these are powerful anti-aging tools, they can dry the skin out even more in the wintertime, so you may want to use them only a few days each week."

Wear SPF

"Applying sunscreen, even during the winter, is imperative, as studies confirm that sun is the number one cause of skin aging," explains Dr. Hale. Her pick: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream with SPF 30 ($33; cvs.com), which contains an amino peptide and vitamin B3 to hydrate the skin. If you're looking for a foundation for dry skin with sun protection, Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Foundation SPF 40/35 is a great option.

Beat chapped lips with a better balm

To help heal sore, flaky lips, swipe on an unflavored/unscented lip balm that has an SPF included in the formula. Two ingredients to look for: panthenol and/or lanolin.

Don't mistake flakes on your scalp for dry skin

"Scales in the scalp may not actually be dry skin, but rather dandruff caused by yeast on the scalp, resulting in skin irritation," says Dr. Zeichner. Try a dandruff-fighting shampoo, like Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo ($2; headandshoulders.com). "Make sure to rub it into the scalp, let it sit for five minutes, then rinse."

If this doesn't do the trick, try this moisturizing, DIY scalp treatment from Dr. Hale: After shampooing, massage a few drops of olive oil or coconut oil (straight from the kitchen) in circular motions. Wait about 10 minutes, then rinse.

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  1. Juncan AM, Moisă DG, Santini A, et al. Advantages of hyaluronic acid and its combination with other bioactive ingredients in cosmeceuticals. Molecules. 2021;26(15):4429. doi:10.3390/molecules26154429

  2. American Academy of Dermatologists, Dermatologists' Top Tips for Relieving Dry Skin. Accessed August 6, 2022.

  3. Krutmann J, Schalka S, Watson REB, Wei L, Morita A. Daily photoprotection to prevent photoaging. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2021;37(6):482-489. doi:10.1111/phpp.12688

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