How to Soothe a Raw and Overly Blown Nose

We asked dermatologists how to reverse Rudolph syndrome.

As with almost anything in life, there are pros and cons to blowing your nose (stick with me here). On one hand, it can really help with relieving stuffiness and congestion—plus it prevents mucus from building up in your nostrils. Lovely mental image, right? Then again, you have to consider what repeatedly blowing your nose can do to your skin. Because it's not great.

Take it from Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City: "Overly blowing your nose can result in irritant contact dermatitis due to vigorous rubbing, contact with mucus, and friction from tissue use, which disrupts the skin barrier." This erosion of the skin barrier can leave the entire nose area red, flaky, and sensitive to the touch.

Of course, with it being flu season and significantly colder outside in most places, runny noses are incredibly common, so it can be hard for people to avoid using tissues for sanitary reasons. The good news is there are ways to help prevent your nose from getting overly raw—as well as easy treatments that can help soothe redness and soreness in a matter of days (sometimes less than that). Keep reading for professional insight on how to combat and calm an irritated nose.

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Apply ointments and balms

Because blowing your nose can have a stripping effect on the skin—meaning it removes all the essential oils that keep it hydrated—the main thing you want to do is strengthen and support your moisture barrier. Dr. Garshick recommends using products rich in water-locking ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and panthenol, as well as occlusive agents like Vaseline ($12 for 3; amazon.com) or Aquaphor ($14; amazon.com) to seal in hydration. "Ointments that use petrolatum to provide a protective barrier not only lock in moisture but also protect the skin from external irritants," she explains, adding that in addition to Aquaphor and Vaseline, she's a big fan of CeraVe's Healing Ointment ($11; ulta.com). Additionally, she recommends avoiding any harsh soap-based cleansers and chemical exfoliants, and instead sticking to gentle formulas that aid in nourishing and repairing the skin.

When it comes to treating a nose that's already in a worse-for-wear state, pros say it's best to streamline your routine and load up on moisturizing products that help speed up healing. Apply some aloe vera gel to soothe irritated skin after each nose blow. Dr. Garshick says it may also be helpful to use a topical steroid cream, like over-the-counter cortisone, to reduce inflammation. "Once the skin barrier is disrupted, there is a risk of infection, so it's important to monitor for signs including but not limited to crusting, pus, and tenderness," she adds.

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Try an antibacterial

"Because we harbor a lot of bacteria in our nostrils, sometimes adding topicals with anti-bacterial properties can help treat a raw nose as well," says Robert Finney, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. Depending on the severity of your situation, he recommends seeing an expert to determine whether you need a prescription cream or ointment—or if you're safe to use an OTC product like Neopsorin ($4; amazon.com) or Sudocrem ($12; walmart.com).

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Run a humidifier

Chances are if the outside of your nose is raw, the inside is too. Since you can't exactly moisturize the inside of your nostrils, the key lies in improving the surrounding conditions that you breathe in. When there is less moisture in the air, it's easier for the nose to get dryer quicker. Solution: Turn on a humidifier to add some moisture back into the room—this will support the skin's natural moisture barrier instead of stripping it.

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Pay attention to your tissues

Last but not least, blow smartly. The last thing you want to do to a raw nose is use a scratchy tissue on it (or even worse, toilet paper). Try soft tissues that have lotion infused into it, such as Puffs Facial Tissues ($12 for 8; amazon.com), which will cause minimal damage and irritation to the inside and outside of your nose. If your runny nose is due to allergies, it may also be worth looking into a neti pot, which can help flush out mucus and incriminating pollen.

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