Weathering Winter and Wudu: 10 Tips for Dealing with Dry SkinWritten by Safaa Elbanna
For Muslims who use water several times a day to wash before prayer, winter can be a season of dry, itchy skin. Homeopath, Holistic Skin Care Practitioner, MD (Cosmetic Dermatologist in the Middle East) and founder of Selbanna Wellness, Safaa Elbanna shares tips on how to deal with dry skin in the winter.
Although dry skin can happen any time of the year, the cool, dry air of winter often makes it worse. Dry skin can cause itching, which could lead to skin injury and possible infection if not managed properly.
Our skin plays an important role in protecting our bodies from the outside world so keeping it intact and healthy is crucial. Skin regulates body temperature, forms a barrier from external microbes and harmful contaminants and detoxifies and eliminates toxins.
Dryness can affect any type of skin, including oily and acne-prone skin. Dryness may be due to an internal disease, a skin disease or as a result of aging.
It’s not uncommon for seniors to have itchy, dry, flaky skin on the legs with no clear cause. The skin, like any other organ becomes weaker with age and becomes less able to perform its functions the way it used to. Skin needs support to gain strength.
Dryness, however, may not always be a symptom of poorly functioning skin. Sometimes, when the skin is overworked, it thickens to create more protection, and feels rough as a result.
How to prevent dryness in winter
What keeps the skin moist and smooth is the water and fat it contains. If either of these are lacking, the skin starts to feel rough, itchy, red and cracked. Here are 10 ways to reduce dry skin and keep it healthier:
1) Use moisturizer
Creams and ointments, which are thicker than lotions, work better in harsh weather because they also serve as a protective layer against the elements. Lotions can also sometimes cause irritation. It is important to be aware of the ingredients they contain and better to use natural products to avoid any preservatives or irritants.
Many immigrants like myself may remember family members who used to regularly apply oils to the skin and hair and had beautiful skin as a result. Some examples of oils that can be used are coconut oil, which is a moisturizer, anti-inflammatory and protects from the sun; neem
oil, which helps with fungal infections; and calendula, which heals wounds.
2) Avoid using water that is too hot
Although there’s nothing like a hot shower to give you a break from the cold winter, water that is too hot can remove oils from the skin, leaving it dry, rough and prone to cracking. The skin is a barrier that protects our bodies from unwanted invaders so we need to keep it closed and intact. It is better to use warm water that is not too hot.
3) Avoid harsh soap
I have a friend who feels clean only when she hears the squeaking sound on her skin after washing her hands with soap and water. Otherwise, she feels like the dirt is still there. The squeaky sound actually means that all the oils from the skin have been washed way along with the dirt. In addition, harsh soap may contain irritants that can cause eczema and infections with repeated use.
It’s not only harsh hand and body soaps that should be avoided. Cleaning products can also exacerbate dry skin. Some cleansers contain harsh chemicals which irritate the skin. This is a problem that many women are familiar with (eczema of the hands is sometimes called “housewife eczema”). Even if we wear gloves, breathing the chemicals
from these cleansers can activate our immune systems and trigger skin and other allergies. Try natural remedies whenever possible.
4) Avoid intensive scrubbing
While scrubbing aggressively in the shower may be refreshing, it can also weaken and injure the skin. Scrubs remove the dead superficial layer of the skin and improve circulation but dry skin is more fragile and easily injured. We need to scrub less frequently to be gentler on our skin in the Winter.
5) Avoid harsh drying with towels
Harsh drying with towels can irritate, weaken and injure the skin. Pat dry to avoid irritating the skin and keep some moisture in it.
6) Moisturize directly after washing
Using moisturizer directly after washing replaces the oils that washing removes. Absorption is better while the skin is still moist so the skin will benefit most from moisturizer applied at this time.
7) Stay hydrated
We all know the importance of water not only for the skin but for the rest of the organs in the body. In winter, however, it’s easy to forget that we need water if we don’t feel thirsty. And when we do drink, we may opt for tea or coffee to keep warm. Caffeine can dehydrate the body, which means you need to drink more water. We may not need the same amount of water in winter as we do in summer, but we still need to drink water and not use coffee and tea as a replacement.
8) Nutrition and Supplements
Fruits and vegetables, especially green vegetables, are rich in vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy skin. Some of the most important nutrients for the skin are:
- Vitamin Bs: their deficiency causes dryness. These vitamins can be easily obtained by food alone
- Vitamin C: an anti-oxidant, which increases the strength of the skin and blood vessels
- Vitamin A: its deficiency can cause dryness and flaking. It’s mainly found in fish, but also in some vegetables like carrots. We can fulfill our Vitamin A needs from food alone.
- Essential fatty acids: these are important for every cell in the body and have a role in moisturizing the skin, as well as maintaining memory, focus, heart health, and reducing inflammation of the joints. We don’t usually get enough essential fatty acids, especially Omega 3, from our food, so supplements will help.
9) Avoid scratching itchy skin
Scratching dry, itchy skin can make it dryer and itchier, which will make you want to scratch it even more. It’s a cycle that needs to be broken. Sometimes itching is due to internal causes like diabetes, thyroid diseases, kidney diseases or some medications. In this case, we need to relieve the itch and support the skin. One of the most soothing and healing moisturizers is aloe vera gel, whether in products or in its natural form directly the plant. It’s a plant that can be grown at home.
Wool and harsh materials can cause irritation, itching and finally dryness due to friction with the skin. It's like continuous scrubbing. Avoid irritation by wearing a cotton layer directly on the skin under wool or synthetic clothes.
When washing clothes, be sure to rinse out all of the detergent by using the maximum level of water or using an extra rinse cycle.
The skin is the largest organ of the body and has a major role in protecting us. We should take care of it as it takes care of us.
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