Winter: it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Bust out the flannel, put on your four-wheel drive tires, haul out the log-splitting axe and let the fire roar—there are tons of reasons to celebrate the blustery season. But there’s one downside to winter that always sneaks up on you: wintertime dryness. The slow transformation into Old Man Winter affects men everywhere – from hockey players to lumberjacks – with peeling, flaking, and chapped skin.
Wondering how to stop dry skin in the winter?
Glad you asked. We did some hands-on research (translation: stood outside in the snow for seven hours, then under a boiling-hot shower) on what causes wintertime dryness, how to take care of dry skin in winter, and how you can stop it before it starts. Welcome to the Guy’s Guide to Wintertime Dryness.
About Your Skin
Why Should I Care if I Have Dry Skin?
Dry skin isn’t just unpleasant —it’s uncomfortable, painful, and can actually be unhealthy. Dry skin is significantly more prone to infection than well-hydrated skin and for those of us who spend a lot of time outdoors, the risk of infection is no joke. Keeping your skin happy can be the difference between an awesome weekend trip to a mountainside cabin and a weekend that could be cut short by infection and sickness- or itching, at the very least.
Why Does Skin Dry Out in the First Place?
To start off, we need to understand how skin works, so let’s nerd out for a second. Skin is the largest human organ by surface area – a barrier of protection that keeps the delicate inner workings of man safe. Your skin is ultra-tough (you are a man, after all) and regenerates itself on the regular. Basically it’s the unsung MVP of the body.
But, like all MVPs, skin has its limitations. Even Michael Jordan had to ‘retire’ for a bit, remember?
Dry skin problems start when the moisture barrier—also called the stratum corneum—is compromised. When the moisture barrier is threatened, the turnover cycle gets interrupted; The upper layer of skin thickens for protection, making it harder for dead skin cells to shed normally and blocks the way for the new, healthy cells. This leads to a buildup of dead skin on the surface, creating the flakes, itchiness and calluses that we all know and love.
A healthy moisture barrier = hydrated, moisturized skin. A compromised moisture barrier = dry skin that’s peeling, flaking, or red. This is also true for the skin on your scalp – one of the many reasons why you shouldn’t wash your hair every day. Keep reading for more ways to care for your good ‘ole stratum corneum in the winter.
But Why is My Skin So Much Drier in Winter?
Anyone can suffer from winter dryness, but some people are more prone than others. If you’re already dehydrated, spend a lot of time outside, take scorching hot showers, use harsh products on your skin or have sensitive skin, you’re more likely to experience dry skin in the winter.
Here’s why the winter makes dry skin so much worse:
Your skin usually gets a good amount of hydration from the water content in the air. The higher the humidity, the better your MVP will perform. So when temperatures drop in the winter, the humidity level drops – and when the air dries out, so does your skin.
But it’s not just an outdoor problem, so no – hibernating inside all winter isn’t a foolproof way to keep your skin from flaking.
In general, any extreme temperatures (ie steaming-hot showers) have the potential to dry out and irritate your skin. Heated air, whether it’s from a fireplace or a space heater, is also dry air. And since you probably crank the heat when it’s freezing out, the combination of temperatures makes your skin even thirstier.
This general lack of hydration from the air makes the water in your skin evaporate quickly, so your moisture barrier has to work overtime to protect you by thickening the top layer of skin. This is what throws off the turnover cycle and causes the signs of dry skin.
How to Prevent & Treat Dry Winter Dry Skin
The good news is that winter dry skin is beatable with a little Squatch savvy. Here are a couple quick tips to make sure your skin performs at it’s best, year-round.
For Your Body
Treat your skin like it’s the Heisman Trophy and keep harmful products far away-.
Avoid detergents and products with harsh chemicals, parabens, sulfates and any alcohol-based sanitizers. These potentially harmful ingredients combined with harsh winter temperatures puts your skin even more at risk for irritation and dryness.
Making the switch to a natural soap and finding the right products for your skin goes a long way to keeping that good ol’ stratum corneum happy and healthy. You know what they say: happy
wife stratum, happy life.
Choosing an exfoliating soap can be a great first line of defense. Normally your skin exfoliates itself, but when that protective barrier goes up, your skin may need a little help.
Squatch Pick for Dry & Itchy Skin
Squatch Pick for Flaky & Dry Skin
For Your Home
Pump moisture back into the air by getting a humidifier like this one for your home. It says it’s for babies, but don’t let that throw you off. Babies have the softest skin so they must be doing something right.
Keep extreme temperatures at bay. Try not to blast the heat too much, especially right after you’ve been out shoveling snow off the driveway in the harsh, cold air. And back off from the scorching showers.
Don’t worry, you can still enjoy a shower beer– just drink it while taking a reasonably warm shower instead of a scalding one.
The Bottom Line
Flakes can be good…if you’re a croissant. But you’re not a croissant. You’re a man. Don’t let dry skin stand in the way of your winter. With a little knowledge and a good natural soap on your side, you can stop winter dry skin before it stops and get right back to wood chopping, ice fishing, riding snowmobiles, or doing whatever it is you love to do in the great wintry outdoors (or indoors).