Skin loses moisture rapidly in winter months leading to varying degrees of dryness, from scaling and cracking to fissuring and pain.
Dryness also causes a winter itch, which initially appears as white flaky skin. If neglected, the skin can thicken and produce a ‘scratch-itch-scratch” cycle, which is difficult to break, especially in exposed areas such as the shin, ankle and neck.
If your skin feels itchy, apply oil and rub the area with muslin. Avoid scratching as nails remove the superficial layer of skin, exposing it to infections and hardening. If thick dark patches of skin appear, consult a dermatologist.
The use of radiators, central heating, hot water and woolens aggravate dryness, so regulate the indoor environment to ensure it is comfortable but not dry and hot. Use humidifiers or place a bowl of water near the radiator to humidify the air. Sleeping in an overheated room causes fluid retention, making your face appear puffy and producing bags under the eyes.
Wear loose clothes. Tight ones trap heat and cause itching. Wool fibres are covered with tiny scales that irritate skin and cause itching, so ensure you wear cotton clothing under your woolens. People with atopic dermatitis and other skin allergies should avoid furry wools such as angora.
Wash your face at least half an hour before going out so that the natural oils are secreted and replenished. Though the winter sun is not hot, the ultraviolet rays present in sunlight are at the same level as in summer, making the use of sunscreen a must. Avoid sitting in direct sunlight between 11 am and 4 pm.
Water is key to supple skin but thirst should not be an indicator of water need, drink 8-10 glasses of water daily. Oil-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A and E keep the skin soft and supple. Vitamin A, found in spinach, broccoli, carrots and peas, is a keratolytic that prevents the skin from drying. Vitamin E helps in skin regeneration and is found in walnuts, cod liver oil, almonds and cashewnuts.
Mask for dry hair
Mix one teaspoon of honey, one egg yolk, half a teaspoon of almond oil and 1 teaspoon of yoghurt. Apply on hair and leave for an hour.
Honey smoothens the hair follicles, egg and almond oil moisturise the hair shaft while yoghurt tightens the scalp pores. Use normal shampoo to wash off after an hour.
To prevent dandruff and fungal infection in the scalp, use a shampoo meant for normal hair. Limit the use of medicated anti-dandruff shampoos to once a week.
Agarwal is a consultant dermatalogist and the director of Mehak Skin Clinic