Protecting Senior Skin During Cold Weather

Winter is dry skin season! And as we grow older, the normal changes in the thickness and elasticity of our skin make it more likely that cool temperatures and dry air will cause chapping, cracking and other uncomfortable skin conditions. Saint Louis University dermatology professor Dr. Michelle Tarbox offers tips for happier winter skin:

Avoid Dehydration

The secret to healthy and glowing skin during winter is to nourish your skin from the outside as well as the inside, says Tarbox. "As the temperature is low and the heater is on, the indoor air gets dehydrated and your skin loses moisture from the environment. When the level of moisture in the air drops due to the heating process, it practically sucks the water out of your skin."

To replace the moisture lost during the heating process, Tarbox suggests using a humidifier. Use distilled water instead of tap water for best results. "Humidifying the air can reverse the process of skin dehydration and is particularly helpful for patients with dermatitis, an itchy inflammation of the skin," Tarbox says.

Choose Your Cleanser Carefully

This is the season when we want to wash our hands more often to avoid flu viruses, but hand soaps can have an impact on the skin. Harsh cleansers strip the natural oils from the skin, leading to cracks and cuts that promote dermatitis, dryness and hand eczema, a long-term skin disorder. Tarbox recommends investing in a skin-friendly cleanser that will reduce the dryness on hands. She says, "Some cleansers are more gentle and moisturizing than others. Look for beneficial ingredients like essential oils, jojoba oil and shea butter oil."

Water Is the Best Winter Beverage

Caffeine and alcohol both can cause the body to become dehydrated, which means that festive holiday cocktails and warming coffee drinks also can potentially lead to dry skin. Says Tarbox, "This is the opposite of what you want, because during winter you can already be dehydrated at baseline. You not only have to compensate for the heater being on and the internal air being dry, but also the water loss that you're having because of the beverages that you may be enjoying."

In order to decrease dehydration, Tarbox recommends drinking a glass of water for each alcoholic and caffeinated beverage you consume.

Selecting a Moisturizer

As the name suggests, a moisturizer is used to replenish the lost moisture from the skin. Tarbox suggests using products that contain ceramides, which are lipid (fat) molecules containing fatty acids. While fats generally are considered unhealthy, ceramides protect your skin from the outside world. When selecting a moisturizer, look for high-quality oil ingredients such as shea butter, jojoba and avocado oil.

Tarbox also recommends buying the right type of moisturizer for your skin. "The less water a moisturizer has, the longer it will last," she says, "A lotion is going to be the least long-lasting, as it has more water than a cream. When in doubt, thicker is often better when choosing a skin moisturizer."

Source: Saint Louis University School of Medicine. The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about skin problems, and before making changes in your fluid intake.

Learn More

The National Institute on Aging offers advice about skin care and aging as part of their AgePage series of online brochures.

Skin care products promise to protect our skin from aging—but do they work? The American Academy of Dermatology provides information about mature skin and advice for creating a skin care plan that is useful for people of every age.


Right at Home, Inc. is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned providers of in home care services.