How to ditch the winter itch

February 4th, 2010

During wintertime in Cleveland, sometimes the walk to class is more of a challenge than what the teacher has in store for that day’s lesson. 

With recent temperatures reaching drastic lows, taking the proper precautions to help protect your skin during those cold walks is important. 

“Winter itch” is a prevalent skin condition that develops during these cold months. 

According to sophomore Peter Croke, it is very annoying. 

“Every year it’s the same thing,” he said.  “It doesn’t help that Cleveland is as cold as it is.”

Frequent exposure to freezing temperatures will often turn skin red and scaly, resulting in itchiness and irritation. 

So why exactly does “winter itch” occur, and just what exactly is it that causes our skin to feel the way it does in the winter months? 

“Winter brings dry, cold air, which causes skin to lose oil,” said dermatologist Dr. Robert Haber of Haber Dermatology in Cleveland. 

“Skin doesn’t get the moderate moisture it needs. So it dries, as a variety of oil processes occur that cause inflammation. The skin then becomes irritated, red and itchy,” he said. 

“Every year around this time my skin seems to always be dry and itchy,” said sophomore Michael Jubec. “I take hot showers and even use moisturizer sometimes. Nothing seems to work though.” 

Should all students then resort to taking the frigid walk to CVS and purchasing expensive prescription moisturizers? 

Dr. Haber suggests cheaper, more conventional alternatives that will help us all during this season. 

“Moisturizers don’t need to be expensive,” he said. “Something as simple as Vaseline works perfectly fine.”

This helps trap moisture within the pores, keeping skin from becoming too dry and cracking.

“I’ve used multiple products, and not many seemed to work, except for moisturizers,” said Croke. “It keeps the skin from getting too red and flaky.” 

Others like Cetaphil, Aveeno Daily Mosturizing Lotion, Burts Bees products and ChapStick work well, too. 

“I’ve tried a lot of products and personally, I think cocoa butter works the best,” said sophomore Izzy Khaimov. 

Dr. Haber also addresses the myth of taking warm showers in hopes of soothing dry skin. 

“Hot showers actually do not help moisturize at all. In some cases, it can even irritate the skin more,” he said. 

According to Medical News Today, prolonged hot showers can cause Eczema, the chronic skin condition in which the skin becomes itchy, reddened, cracked and dry. 

The medical news site also suggests a number of possible remedies to help relieve winter itch.

 Adequately cleansing the skin, taking short, lukewarm showers, and purchasing a small humidifier are all possible antidotes for alleviating red, itchy skin. 

Some medical experts even propose applying honey to dry, cracking lips. 

One of the oldest foods in existence, honey was an ancient remedy for wound healing, in part because it never spoils.  

“I’ve never heard of applying honey to your lips,” said Haber.  “Wouldn’t you just want to lick it off?” 

However, according to Haber, honey does contain natural healing and antibacterial properties that can be used on open wounds. 

“I suppose it could be applied to chapped lips as well,” he said.  

So, whether it’s applying a petroleum-based cleanser or a sweet nectar to your dry lips, it’s important to keep your skin properly moisturized during those wintry walks to class.