Dry skin occurs throughout the year, however, for many Blacks, it can become increasingly uncomfortable during winter months. Cold temperatures, low humidity, and strong, harsh winds, according to dermatologists, deplete the skin of its natural lipid layer, which would normally help keep the skin from drying out. Black skin, as a result, can become very flaky, dry, and ashy in the winter.
“Years ago, Black mothers might use anything from olive oil or cooking grease – later petroleum jelly – to keep skin soft and keep it from cracking, especially if working outdoors,” Rockville dermatologist Candice Drummond told the AFRO. “Some of us still apply the Vaseline, but there are a host of dietary and topical measure to keep the ash away.”
To guard against dry skin and lips, Drummond recommends limiting baths or showers to 4-5 minutes, using lukewarm water and using non-drying, mild soap for cleansing. Long showers and baths actually strip the skin of its natural oils. “Many of us like using perfumed soaps or gels, which smell great, but do a fair job of drying out the skin in winter. Even mild soaps can have drying effects, so limit soap use to areas where you are prone to perspire or where dirt readily accumulates (face, hands, feet, underarms and groin area).”
Avoid products with alcohol or that can be drying and irritating to the skin like harsh scrubs.
Drummond also offered tips of daily moisturizing, being careful, again to avoid heavily perfumed lotions. “Look for lotions that contain humectants (glycerin, hyaluronic acid and urea). When you come out of the shower or bath, immediately apply the moisturizer to your damp skin. This will help to seal the moisture in and provide a protective barrier from the harsh winter environment,” Drummond said.
Additionally, Dermatology News offered: Moisturizing the air at home and the office with a humidifier to keep the heating systems from inadvertently drying skin as they heat the area. A low-cost alternative to humidifiers are plants. When watered, plants help diffuse moisture throughout the room. Drummond added that many Black families keep a sauce pan with water in it on top of heating convectors to the same end.
Avoid wool clothing next to your skin. Wool often irritates skin, making it itchy in the winter. Instead, wear cotton camisoles, undershirts, or long underwear underneath any wool clothing. Finally, keeping the body well hydrated by drinking ample amounts of water each day is critical to fighting against both dehydration and ash.
If suffering from dry, itchy skin in spite of following these skin care tips, Drummond recommends seeing a dermatologist to make sure the condition is not from allergies or a skin condition like psoriasis or eczema.