Have you ever noticed that your skin seems to itch more in the wintertime? Itching is just one of many symptoms that occur when the air is dry and hot water feels like a warm hug. In addition to this frustrating problem, the incredibly dry air outside and in our offices and homes causes chapped lips, dry nasal passages, and risks for dermatitis flare-ups. When the skin itches, the best thing we know to do is to scratch. Scratching supposedly ends the problem. According to interesting research, this isn’t actually the case.
Researchers from Temple University used fMRI to observe brain responses in people with chronically itchy skin. These included people with eczema and other forms of dermatitis. According to their research, just observing a video of someone scratching their skin caused participants to “feel itchy” and tempted to scratch their own skin. Furthermore, researchers discovered that scratching resulted in stimulation within parts of the brain associated with reward. Basically, scratching the skin was perceived by the brain as a reward. It’s not. Scratching itchy skin can cause damage and literally make the itching worse.
How to Tame the Winter Itch
You don’t have to have a skin condition to suffer from chronically itchy skin this time of year. Luckily, the cause is well-known: dryness. So, to reduce itchiness (and also foster healthier, younger-looking skin), try these tips:
- Maintain a warm shower regimen. As tempting as a steamy bath might sound, hot water exacerbates dryness and leads to more itching.
- Ditch the fragrant soaps. We know, they smell so yummy! But they most likely contain alcohol or other ingredients that are drying. Try a soap for sensitive skin, at least until the weather warms up.
- After a shower, pat dry and immediately apply an emollient cream. On extra dry areas, like the heels or feet, use an ointment such as Aquaphor to seal in moisture.
- If dryness becomes excessive, which it often does, a humidifier can be an environmental life-saver for your skin as well as your nose and lips.
If winter weather causes a flare-up in dermatologic conditions or you’re ready to end the year with some self-pampering, contact our Sonterra or La Casita office to schedule a visit with Dr. Bucay.