Winter Skin Survival – How to Combat Dry Skin

Surviving Dry Skin In the Winter Months

Since I started my blog last year and since I discovered the scope of support for eczema and psoriasis sufferers on the internet, particularly on social media, I’ve wanted to give my own story and advice for those suffering from dry skin and conditions caused by dry skin. I haven’t ever really come across any literature before that gives unbiased advice on products and tips from somebody with first hand experience.

My Skin Story

So my battle with dry skin, and trust me, it is a battle or in actual fact more likened to a war with relentless battles, begins at birth. I had dermatitis as a newborn and as I started going to school I was diagnosed with eczema and sensitive skin. I was told over and over by professionals that I would grow out of it and that if I treat it well it’ll heal, I can tell you that for me that couldn’t have been further from the truth. In fact it only deteriorated and in my second year of university when I  was 19 I developed full body psoriasis after already suffering from psoriasis of the scalp for about 5 or 6 years. Experiencing full body psoriasis as a young female adult was horrific, it totally demolished my confidence, gave me sleepless nights and for a condition that is ironically triggered by stress, it gave me more stress. I finally felt some clarity when I saw a dermatologist for the first time and he told me I was the only patient he’d ever encountered that suffered from both psoriasis and eczema. I was a medical marvel for all the wrong reasons. He called several doctors in to get their opinion and they were all astonished as apparently, the two genetic defects that cause eczema and psoriasis are from two totally different strains that shouldn’t be able to co-exist. He then went on to tell me he had seen one other case and that was on himself! 

Eventually and thankfully my psoriasis faded within about two years with the assistance of UV light therapy treatment and copious steroid application. I do however still suffer from eczema particularly in the Winter. It is a daily struggle and at times managing it can be so tough to fit into a daily routine and I’ve found it particularly challenging living in England where the NHS now charges £8.20 per item. In order to stock my full supply of creams, ointments and alternative soaps on prescription it would cost me in excess of £60 a month, so I had to find alternatives. Not only have I found a good selection of treatments that are sufficient for me to manage my condition. I’ve also developed good habits to prevent my skin getting to the point where I need to go to the doctors.  Not only does this apply to eczema sufferers but also anybody with dry skin.

These are my hands on what I would call a ‘good day’ and the part of the body that is typically affected most frequently. I also get similar patches on my flextures (insides of the elbow and kneees). Although this doesn’t look as bad as some it’s still sore on a day to day basis and can flare up to be very painful within a matter of hours or sometimes even minutes.

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Firstly these are my top treatments that I use weekly or as and when I need them. Remember instructions are only guidelines and you should do what’s best for you.

  1. Holland and Barrett.

Holland and Barrett have been an absolute miracle cure for me. I use the doctor organic range and the consultants will actually recommend you specific creams and moisturisers for what you need. I’ve tried most of the different selections in the range and I found the best one to be the manuka honey because it’s so soothing, I’d also recommend anything coconut or aloe. These aren’t a cure but they are soothing for ‘angry skin’. If you don’t suffer from eczema and need a moisturiser you will love this range! Plus they have a points card and there are always deals on like 2 for 1.

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  1. Burt’s Bees.

This one is a new discovery for me, I’ve always wanted to try the range but was wary of fragrances or anything artificial but actually this range is one of the best I’ve tried. I got the tips and toes kit which was a miniature selection of everything I wanted to try without wasting my money. Price wise they’re pretty much on par with Holland and Barrett which are both about ⅓ cheaper than any prescription. The products that have worked best for me are the almond & milk hand cream, the hand salve and honey and grapeseed hand cream. They’re very soothing and helpful when a bad flare up occurs. Their lip balms are also AMAZING.

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My absolute holy grail product is an over the counter treatment. It’s the hydrocortisone 1% solution and I carry this and now the almond and milk hand cream with me everywhere. I find it much more effective than E45 which personally has never worked for me and aggravates my skin.

3. Lush

I’m always very vary of brands and beauty stores in general because often they’re full of fragrances and alcohol and unfortunately I’m unable to use them without discomfort. I have found however, that products from Lush tend not to upset my skin too much providing I moisturise after using them. One product in particular though ‘Sympathy for the Skin’ is an amazing full body moisturiser that not only smells like cookie dough (no joke), but is just very gentle on the skin and lasts forever.

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Good Habits and Tips

Moreover there are plenty of good habits that will stop your skin drying out that maybe you hadn’t even considered. These are things that I have discovered over the years through trial and error that just make my life a thousand times easier and my skin a whole lot happier.

  • Don’t wash your hands unless absolutely necessary if you do dry them well, rub don’t pat and avoid using hand dryers, the hot heat dries out your hands. 
  • Don’t expose your hands/ skin to rain water if it can be avoided all the chemicals in rainwater really irritate the skin
  • Gloves, always wear gloves. Especially in Winter it protects your hands from the wind and the cold. 
  • Avoid anything with fragrance or alcohol. Particularly make up remover, face wipes and soap. Don’t use anything that contains fragrance or alcohol especially on your face. I use Johnson’s extra sensitive wipes, they’re a pricey but if you can get them a deal and stock up it costs less. 

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  • Do not use hand sanitiser, this stuff is lethal and contains alcohol. If you need to wash your hands just use warm water and a small amount of soap.
  • Don’t wash your body unless you need to. If you don’t need to shower then don’t. I don’t always shower every single day your body doesn’t need it and it’ll dry your skin out unnecessarily. If you need to shower then make sure you dry your skin by patting it gently and moisturise afterwards. 
  • Get plenty of air to any exposed/open skin when you can (at night etc). If you have any sores or particularly bad patches of skin try and get air to them even though the temptation is to apply dressing. 
  • Make up free days. If you’re a girl this is so important. I have terribly dry skin and try and wear as little make up as possible and have at least 2-3 days a week make up free. Try and avoid heavy foundation and work with just concealer and powder your skin will be so thankful.

Final Thoughts and Advice

Finally, just pay attention to what your skin is telling you and take time to think about what might be drying out your skin. Naturally, people have different skin types and having a dry skin type doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve soft and flawless skin. You just have to take the time to look after it and give it some TLC.

You may find a treatment works for a while, then suddenly stops and that’s just the way your skin works. Having a few treatments on rotation works for me, I’m always trying different products. Maintaining dry skin is a chore, and can get you down but you have to prepare yourself and just incorporate it into your daily routine. My checklist goes like this, keys, wallet, phone, moisturiser. I always carry it everywhere I go. That way if I need to wash my hands I don’t need to worry about them feeling dry afterwards.

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If you find something at work is drying your skin out, then talk to your employer they should be more than willing to accommodate your needs. Skin conditions are widely recognised by health and safety and if you need to wear gloves when performing a particular task then you should. Having bad skin can be a real struggle and put a lot of underlying stress in your life and if you can remove that stress, then why not try. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the good things in life like bath bombs and bubble bath which is what I used to believe, you just have to be prepared to take extra good care of your skin afterwards.

I hope this helps some of you who are suffering from dry skin, eczema or just want some ways to  combat dry skin in Winter. If any of you have questions about eczema or psoriasis or just want to chat then feel free to tweet me or leave a comment below. I’m not expert but I’ve certainly been through an awful lot to try and figure out what the hell my skin needs to stay healthy!

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