Dry air and biting winds can deplete the moisture in your skin. Itchiness due to dry skin can usually be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) products such as the body lotions below. But Dr. Ronald Vender, a dermatologist in Hamilton, Ont., suggests contacting a doctor if the area becomes excessively red or puffy or starts to bleed, or if you get a fever, itchy eyes or achy joints. These signs can mean you need stronger medication or have an infection. If you suspect you’ve got eczema (recurring itchy, inflamed skin), get that verified by a doctor, in case you need specific creams or actually have a fungal infection.
Farah Mussa, a pharmacist in Calgary with London Drugs, recommends getting a doctor’s advice if you have tried treating your itching skin for two weeks with no relief. However, most of the time, a product at your local drugstore can do the job. Here’s what Mussa and Vender suggest.
Body lotions with glycerin
Examples: Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturizing Lotion, Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion, Lubriderm Intense Dry Skin Repair
How they work: Glycerin attracts water from under the surface of the skin and hydrates the top layer. Moisturized skin will itch less. Products with glycerin relieve dry skin on your face.
Extra tips: Avoid using soap to wash your face. You can use a milder cleanser such as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which contains no perfumes to irritate or further dry skin. Or, if you also want to tone and remove makeup, try Vichy Purete Thermale 3 in 1 Cleanser.
Body lotions with petrolatum, cocoa butter or mineral oil
Examples: Base Glaxal (petrolatum), Eucerin Original Lotion (mineral oil), Vaseline Cocoa Butter
How they work: Oil in a lotion creates a barrier and prevents your skin from losing moisture. If you are prone to acne, you might want to avoid using oil-based moisturizers on your face, but they are perfect for deeply hydrating the rest of the body. Take time to really work them into the skin so they don’t rub off.
If you have concerns about using petroleum-based moisturizers (those containing petrolatum or mineral oil) because they’re derived from non-renewable resources, or worry that they might be unhealthy for you, consider trying natural-based products with soy or grapeseed oil instead.
Extra tips: Dry skin prevention is key: Take shorter showers with cooler water. Pat yourself dry—no rubbing—and apply moisturizer while you’re still damp to lock in water.
Body lotions with aloe or menthol
Examples: Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturizing Lotion with Cooling Menthol, St. Ives Aloe & Chamomile
How they work: These natural ingredients cool and soothe irritated skin. The calming effect is short-term, so look for products that also contain a hydrating ingredient.
Extra tips: Regardless of which moisturizer you use, go easy on the bubble baths, which can strip moisture.
Remedies for eczema
Examples: Generic OTC hydrocortisone creams 0.5%
How they work: In addition to glycerin, these eczema creams contain cortisone, which calms inflammation and redness.
Extra tips: Eczema sometimes needs prescription-strength hydrocortisone (1% concentration or stronger). See your doctor if OTC creams don’t work within two weeks.