“DRY, ITCHY, FLAKY knees, elbows, shoulders—well, just about every part of the body—are not a problem exclusive to chilly climates. They’re the result of a lack of moisture in the air. And eradicating the issue is harder than it seems.
“If you’re 18 and live in [a humid area like] Hawaii, you don’t need to worry about dry skin in winter,” said Rebecca Fitzgerald, a Los Angeles-based dermatologist. “If you’re older, and you live in a cold place like New York, going in and out of overheated rooms, or in a dry, windy place like L.A., it’s a different story.” Skin is drier in winter because cool air holds less water vapor, or humidity, than warm air. Forced-air heating systems also make water held in the skin evaporate faster.
The skin has two basic layers, explained Dr. Fitzgerald: the dermis where the sweat glands, capillaries and nerve endings are, and the epidermis. “The outer cells of the epidermis fit together like puzzle pieces to protect the dermis,” she said. “They don’t have their own blood flow, but they get a diffusion of blood and water from the dermis. The skin also produces oil to help the epidermis seal in that moisture.”
When a hot, soapy shower washes oils away, moisture evaporates from the skin, and the dry cells can turn into flakes, which she described as “flat, like paper, and waxy.”
There are a handful of simple tactics for battling seasonal scaly skin. Jordan Carqueville, a dermatologist at the Skin Care Center of Chicago, advises patients to use soap only on the parts of the body that need it, to sleep with a humidifier in their bedrooms—and to gently exfoliate before they moisturize…”
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