Chapped skin means one is either cracked, sore or rough especially due to cold weather exposure. The skin has natural oils that moisturize and hydrate it but activities or conditions it is exposed to can remove the oils. Without natural oils, it becomes chapped and dry. If you want it to remain moisturized there are several things you should do and others you should not do.
Where to expect it commonly
Expect chapped skin around lips, legs, fingers, toes, nose, around eyes, among other areas. It all depends on what caused it.
The humidity levels drop during the cold season and this brings about the dry skin cases. The water in it tends to evaporate more quickly when the air outside becomes dry and cold. The skin can no longer efficiently hold moisture causing it to become dry, tight, flaky and chapped. Windy weather also contributes to this.
This is also an aftermath of the cold weather. We tend to spend more time indoors during the cold weather and use indoor heating to keep us warm. The air inside the house then causes the skin to dry out. It also dries out the mucous membranes and this leads to dry noses, dry chapped lips, and dry throat.
Taking long baths and long hot showers
Long hot showers sound great. Long hot baths sound even better but this combination of hot water and skin soaking will strip it of its protective oils. This could make it look like that of an alligator!
Not moisturizing the skin using lotion
Sometimes we want to skip the lotion, either because we are buried under 10 layers of clothing (during winter) or we just don’t feel like it. Bad idea. It’s important to moisturize the skin no matter the weather or conditions. Even if you won’t display some parts of the body, make sure they are always moisturized. Also make sure you use the right lotion for your body skin type to avoid it becoming flaky, itchy and uncomfortable.
Frequently washing hand
It’s healthy to always keep our hands clean but the frequent washing of hands can make them chapped. This can also be caused by hand sanitizers due to the high concentration of alcohol they contain. Exposure to harsh soaps, water and alcohol can strip your hands of the natural oils it uses for moisture. This then leads to chapped hands with cracks and splits, that if not taken care of, can lead to bleeding or infections.
In the summer the body becomes hot and sweaty and this may drive us to consume lots of water. In the winter, however, the weather becomes cold and we may forget to drink water. This may lead to dehydration that could lead the skin to become chapped. The body loses water, no matter the weather conditions, through sweating. The body is made up of 70% water which helps keep the cells healthy ad plump. It is therefore important to drink enough water to avoid getting the body dehydrated and you feeling and looking shriveled.
Failing to include enough fatty acids in your diet is not healthy. These fatty acids help the body maintain enough building blocks to keep the cells in your body wrapped in a protective bubble of fats. The fats make sure the cells remain soft, flexible and plump. You should include enough omega 3 rich foods in your diet to replenish the skins natural fats and make sure it remains smooth and supple.
Chapped skin around lips due to licking lips
Licking your lips dries them out and this could make them chapped. This is because saliva evaporates and dries out the skin on your lips. Using long-wearing lipsticks will also have the same effect. The lips will get chapped, dry and sometimes cracked.
Wearing scratchy fibers can cause the skin aggravations. Woolen clothes, for example, aggravate it especially for people with sensitive skin or with eczema. The fibers irritate it leaving it itchy.
Chapped skin dos, don’ts and remedies
If have this problem, here are things you should do to take care of your skin. These will also help you prevent it from becoming chapped.
Shorten shower time
A long hot shower always seems like an answer for those long tiring days. It soothes the muscles, but will also dehydrate you. The hot shower takes moisture out of the skin since hot water removes natural oils from it more quickly than cold water does. To protect it:
- Take short showers and baths.
- Use warm water instead of hot.
- Pat dry it instead of rubbing.
- Use a gentle fragrance-free cleanser
- Do not use too much lather when bathing
Use mild soaps
The antibacterial soaps and deodorants we use may be causing more harm than good. They strip the skin of its essential oils leaving it dry and chapped. Stick to mild soaps preferably those that are unscented or that just have a light scent. Detergents too should be mild since they could make it irritated leading to this problem.
Do not use products that contain alcohol, retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) or fragrance.
You do not need to go all out and buy expensive moisturizer. You can use petroleum jelly, hair conditioner, and mineral oil to trap moisture. Moisturize even if the skin is oily.
When shopping for oils, ointments, creams, and lotions to moisturize it, look for those noncomedogenic products that won’t clog skin pores.
Drink lots of water too to keep hydrated and moisturize from the inside out. Moisturize it immediately after washing your hands to avoid dry chapped hands and immediately you dry the skin after showering or bathing. Always have a non-greasy cream in your bag so that you can apply it immediately after you wash your hands to relieve dry skin.
Ointments and creams work better than lotions. They are more effective and do not irritate. Look for creams that contain olive or jojoba oil. Other ingredients that can soothe your skin include shea butter, urea, lactic acid, glycerin, lanolin, petrolatum and mineral oil.
Use sunscreen to protect it during those very hot days. Very hot weather can lead to wrinkles, moles and skin cancers. Protect it therefore with sunscreen or a hat.
Shaving leaves the skin irritated which could make it chapped eventually. This is true especially if you shave while it is dry. To shave appropriately, use a lubricant like shaving cream, change your blade often and shave in the direction your hair grows.
Chapped skin around mouth
Lips dry out easily since they do not have oil glands. To protect your lips and leave them looking and feeling supple:
- Do not lick them.
- During cold weather, cover them up for protection using a scarf
- Use lip balm to protect them from sun exposure.
If after applying a lip balm, your skin gets irritated, switch to another one.
Protect your hands
Chapped hands can be embarrassing because they are easily noticeable. You can prevent them from getting chapped by wearing gloves, especially when going out during the cold weather, performing tasks that will make the hands wet or when using chemicals, greases, and other harmful products with your hands.
Choose cotton or silk fabrics
When purchasing clothes, choose those made from cotton or silk since they do not irritate the skin.
When washing clothes, avoid detergents that are labeled hypoallergenic since they could irritate it.
Avoid open flames as heat sources
When it’s cold, we all want to hurdle around the fire to get warm. Be it during the cold weather or during camping, do not stay too close to the open flames or another heat source.
Moisturize the air
You can do this by plugging in a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Consult a dermatologist immediately it becomes itchy, red or starts scaling. If the above remedies do not work for you, consult a dermatologist. Dry, chapped skin may require a cream or ointment prescribed by a doctor. Dry skin can also indicate a skin condition that a doctor can help diagnose.
- Vaseline: How to Deal with Dry Patches on the Face
- American Academy of Dermatology: Dermatologists’ top tips for relieving dry skin