Top Tips for Improving Dry, Itchy Skin
Winter can be hard on skin, without touching on all the craziness of this last year. Dry, flaking, itch and sore skin exacerbated by the twin evils of freezing temperatures and central heating. And it's not always a case of a richer moisturiser. Here are my top tips for managing itchy, winter skin.
First of all, why is your skin so dry and itchy? Skin has its own protective barrier, it keeps irritants out and provides a waterproof, protective layer. Once compromised, it allows moisture to escape, leading to dry, flaky and itchy skin.
Common triggers include irritating detergent style gels and soaps, cold winter temperatures, low humidity environments and annoyingly just getting older.
Top Tip 1 - Ditch Harsh Detergents
Weed out harsh detergents from your daily skincare routine. Harsh detergent based soaps and shower gels all commonly contain SLS or SLES (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate) both of which we know can be irritating to skin that is already sensitised.
Check out the ingredients on your favourite products and see what you are using.
As a general rule, shower gels with lots of foaming agents or bubbles might feel nice in shower but are more likely to irritate the skin's barrier function, especially if already stressed. Watch out for words SLS and SLES.
Find a gentle soap, look for something called Cold Pressed Soap. This refers to the soap ingredients and how they are blended together. This is the traditional method of making soap, which has been used since time immemorial.
The best bit is that It uses the simplest of ingredients, but produces a bar soap that is natural and gentle on the skin.
I make my organic soap by combining plant oils with sodium hydroxide or lye, and a little soap magic, (actually a reaction called saponification).
More about cold pressed, hand made soap here.
Top Tip 2 - Consider a Humidifier
At this time of the year, we are hit with the double whammy of freezing, drying air outside, and dry air in our centrally heated homes. Dry air will draw moisture from whenever it can - including our skin. There are lots of portable home friendly versions available, and if you are suffering from very dry skin, might be worth considering.
Top Tip 3 - Switch to a Bath Oil vs Bubble Bath.
When you are feeling cold and frazzled, it's natural to crave a warm bath, and for most of us that means bubbles. We have been bought up to associate a bubble bath with comfort and relaxation - but bubbles can be part of the problem.
Have the warm bath by all means ( warm not toe-curlingly hot) as that will just dry your skin out further. And rather than the detergent bubble bath, plump for a bath oil. Coupled with a few essential oils they will smell far better than any artificial bottle of goo, the oils will hydrate and repair the skin barrier and the aromatherapy essential oils can transport your mind to a better place - one without any itching :)
Tip Tip 4 - Exfoliate Gently
When your skin is very dry and itchy, gentle exfoliation can help, removing any dead skin, and allowing moisture to sink in, making your skin a whole lot more comfortable. Just make it sure it is gentle, scrubbing you your skin within an inch of its life is not going to help, but gentle exfoliation, once or twice a week will.
I like an exfoliation product which contains lovely hydrating plant oils and a medium coarse exfoliation agent. I make my Honey & Rose Scrub Treatment with organic sugar, local honey, silky almond oil and creamy shea butter to create an indulgent and soothing scrub treatment for noticeably softer, toned, glowing skin.
Not got any to hand? Hit the kitchen and knock up a simple scrub for immediate use with medium coarse sugar or salt and a slug of olive or almond oil and you are good to go. A drop or two of your favourite essential will take this simple remedy from basic to beautiful.
Top Tip 5 - Tight clothing/ Synthetic Fabrics
For most of us lockdown has meant a wardrobe change, comfy clothes, leggings, stretchy yoga pants, you know what I mean! You want to be aware of wearing anything too tight that is going to rub and irritate your skin, and also think about going easy on synthetic fabrics which leach further moisture from your skin.
Consider loose, comfortable, breathable clothing to give your skin some space to heal.
If you're suffering right now, all of these tips should help. Watch those ingredients, and be consistent, and gentle, and treat your skin to a little TLC.