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Posted on Dec 29, 2011 in Dear Diary | 27 comments


Don’t let the outrageously mild weather and distinct lack of snow fool you.

Christmas has come and gone, I’ve busted open my under-bed storage bins full of sweaters (closet space is quite the commodity in my room), and our gas bill is already climbing its way to “astronomical”: Winter is here.

I actually really like winter. It does, after all, contain my favorite holiday, promotes public hot chocolate consumption, and has snow! I’m sure that the rest of the metropolitan DC area would disagree with me, but I actually really love snow. I don’t love how people around here DRIVE in it (yet another reason I am thankful to have taken driver’s ed. in Canada… in February) but I love snow. It’s pretty, it’s fun, and unlike when I lived in Ottawa, it actually causes school and work closures here. Win!

From my visit to Ottawa last February.

Unfortunately, this season has its downside as well. It would probably sound better if I said I struggled with something legitimate like seasonal affective disorder or… hypothermia… or something… but my biggest issue with the winter months instead lies in the horrible, itchy, flaky disaster that is my hands and feet come December. My skin gets so dry that not only does it peel uncontrollably, but I develop small, itchy red bumps all over my palms and soles. You’re welcome for that image.

In the past, I’ve suffered in nonstop whining silence because I was too lazy to do anything about it. This year, I’m trying to stop scratching myself into oblivion and actually combat the dryness in what a way that will hopefully preserve both my skin and my sanity. I’m still experimenting with what works best though, so I need your input! This is what I’m planning to do so far, deduced from both personal experience and, y’know, Google:


When it’s this dry out, regular moisturizer is simply not enough. Even I know this. What I have recently learned, however, is that even special dry-skin lotion is not enough. I never really knew what people used Vaseline for other than keeping hair dye from staining your forehead, but apparently it can be used as a skin moisturizer. It seems to be the only thing that is marginally working for me right now, although a little birdie told me on Twitter that I should check out something called Aquaphor. I’m also trying to do that wearing-socks-after-moisturizing-thing, but it’s kind of annoying. Still, the lesser of two evils when the first evil is hand-agony.

Wash my hands, um, differently?

Apparently, according to some article I read online that I’m sure is totally accurate and written by someone with credentials and stuff, we wash our hands more often in the wintertime. Something about being more scared of germs than usual or something, I don’t know. As it turns out, all that constant hand-washing is very drying for our skin. In order to help circumvent further peeling and awfulness for my hands, I’ve nixed my antibacterial soap (which I hear I’m not really supposed to use anyway) for a bar of handmade lavender soap that my mom gave me for Christmas! Apparently I’m supposed to use warm, rather than hot, water to combat the dryness as well. The more you know…!

How To_Sugar Scrub-1


I am a notoriously terrible exfoliator. Aside from haphazardly using my loofah in the shower, my exfoliation efforts are pretty lax. I’m really trying to make an effort to slough off all that gross dry skin this year though, so I’m going to embrace the economical solution of… the homemade sugar scrub! I just combine sugar and coconut oil (or you could use almond, or olive, or vegetable oil if you wanted to be even thriftier) to make a sort of paste, then rub-a-dub-dub it into my skin. I adjust the sugar-to-oil ratio higher for hand/foot use versus leg/body use. I’ve also read about using salt instead, but that doesn’t make sense to me. I feel like that would only serve to sap the moisture out of your skin, right? Anyway, I can say with certainty as someone who spends $38 on her face wash (I really should be more ashamed of that, shouldn’t I?), that this homemade concoction really is wonderful. And helps justify the aforementioned face wash, heh.

I’m hoping that making these things part of my routine will help save me from this horrible, ugly, itchy death. I’m also hoping that I can actually make these things part of my routine. Feel free to chime in with any other tips or tricks you might have up your sleeves!

Do you suffer from similar wintertime maladies? What are your self-winterization techniques?


  1. I get really dry skin too – love The Body Shop’s Almond Oil hand cream. I use it for both hands and feet. Smells great and does the trick!

    Yay for Christmas and the holidays – enjoy your swag!!!

  2. My skin is always dry year-round, but gets especially horrible in winter. My legs get the worst of it. They get so dry and itchy, it often wakes me up in the middle of the night. The only cure is to religiously apply lotion several times a day- which I almost always forget to do.
    I think Aquaphor works really well. And I know it’s a pain- but putting that (or vaseline, or any lotion really) on your feet with socks before you go to bed REALLY makes a big difference for your feet! I’ve also tried to do the same with my hands and bought some special gloves, but they were way too annoying to sleep in. I sleep with socks on every night anyway because my feet are always cold, so that was no big deal.
    One thing that I am trying is to drink a lot more water. I’m wondering if being more hydrated would make a big difference… you think it would, right? I know for me- I drink a lot less water when it’s cold out, so I’m kind of forcing myself to drink more – aiming for 80 oz a day.

    Oh- and one product that I love is Skin Food, made by Weleda. Whole Foods should have it.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the comments people leave on here- I need the advice, too!

  3. My boyfriend and I just bought a humidifier for our apartment, and although I still have super dry skin, it’s not *as* dry, and more importantly, I’ve noticed that my throat isn’t as dry and scratchy when I wake up in the morning.

  4. I’ve heard of the hand washing less…and be sure to carry over the no hot water to the shower too! Taking warm showers instead of super hot, in the winter, really cuts down on the dry skin! Try to find lotions without alcohol…it’s hard, I know. If your skin is to the point to where it’s begun peeling/cracking, that alcohol will sting and make it even worse. Worse as in it’ll be even more irritated/inflamed than before the lotion. Annoying but true.

    When I moved to the DC metro area I experienced first hand the awful skin drying that comes with dry weather (grew up in Florida, then moved to SC before DC). My face is my problem area. I was getting so dry around my eyes and my nose that it was red, peeling, AWFUL! I’d try to put on lotion and just end up in agony and have puffy eyes/face the rest of the day. I did my research too and came up with Vitamin E oil. You can buy the oil in a bottle at most grocers. I just dab it around my eyes and dry areas and voila! No stinging, no inflammation, and suuper moisturizing. And, no break outs (coming from someone who’s struggled with acne well into her 20s)! And it absorbs into the skin, I don’t look like an oil ball. I don’t have a huge problem with my feet or hands but I wouldn’t think it odd of you to slather some vitamin E oil on your feet and don some socks before bed!

    For your hands I’d definitely find a lotion with oil in it and no alcohol! Good luck!

  5. I use Aveeno products in the winter…no cutesy fragrances from ANY store from December to Mayish. For shower soap I have found Aveeno’s fragrance free Skin Relief to truly provide moosturization and relief from flaking, itchy skin. Good luck!

  6. Coconut oil (like for cooking) topically and taking a few gel caps of Evening Primrose oil every day. It takes a few weeks for the Primrose oil to kick in, but when it does, it’s awesome!

  7. I used to live in New Hampshire and my knuckles and hands would get so dry that they would crack and start bleeding. It was horrible. This was in middle school, mind you, so I wasn’t very interested in buying a whole lot of other products so I went with what I had and would put chapstick on my knuckles. It actually really helped! I still do it now and I also use it when my nose gets raw from the cold (or from a cold, haha). Anyway, kind of weird – but cheap and easy!

  8. I’ve had really dry skin on my hands my whole life (to the point of needing prescription lotions), and my doctor just recommended an over the counter lotion called Vanicream–it has petroleum in it, but it’s not as greasy as Vaseline or Aquaphor. It’s a little hard to find (I’ve had to either special-order from a pharmacy or order from Amazon), but it works well!

  9. Have you tried something like Burts Bees lotion. My husband keeps bees and at one of the meetings another member made a bar from oil and beeswax and the stuff was amazing. Check with a local beekeeper to see if they make lotion or know where to get some, if not then there’s the Burts Bees brand at the store. Good luck 🙂

  10. Tweet! I’m such a cute little birdie. 😉

    I have psoriasis which flares when I’m stressed/alive, and it was almost by accident that I realized how wonderful aquaphor was for things other than my tattoo’s healing. It doesn’t irritate my obviously irritated skin, and it doesn’t suffocate it under a thick chemically layer. I had been using Vaseline but I kept peeling when a friend suggested aquaphor. It also works great as a facial moisturizer (I apply a thiiiiiiin layer) when it’s cold and your cheeks are all chapped. They make it in a tube and a tub, and personally I prefer the tub. Maybe because I grew up with Vaseline? I hope you get some relief! Dry skin sucks!

  11. I get painfully dry hands that crack & peel & even bleed (you’re welcome, too). I swear by Ahava Dermud, which is made with Dead Sea minerals & is the only thing that keeps me from intense hand pain in the winter months. Good luck to you!

  12. When showering make sure you use a moisturizing cleanser too like Bath and Body Works Cream Wash.

    In addition to moisturizing from the outside I highly recommend getting plenty to drink and taking Omega oil. It really helps with the dry itchy skin. I’ve always had issues during the winter and this helps me a lot!

  13. I swear by Liz Earle products (she does overseas too) and they are very helpful and full of advice too. I think her body cream and hand cream are amazing and she does a couple of different moisturisers too and has something called superbalm. She has won lots of awards.

  14. my principal (aka, my boss – i’m a teacher) and i were having a discussion about our shared problem of dry skin in the winter and i was complaining that i’ve found nothing that works when she suggested something called alpha keri. i tried to find it, but couldn’t and then i came into work one day and found a brand new bottle of it (from her!) in my mailbox. i put a little on various parts of my body after i shower in the winter and it’s AMAZING. and even though it’s called an “oil”, it doesn’t leave my skin feeling greasy/oily/etc – it actually makes it feel super soft and smooth!

    check it out – http://www.amazon.com/Alpha-Keri-Moisture-Shower-473-2/dp/B0009KN6BQ

    • So I ordered the Alpha Keri oil from Amazon, just tried it, and I LOVE it. It was weird to slather it all over me while I was still dripping wet from the shower (it was also cold, haha) but my skin feels amazing. I put lotion on my feet with socks afterward, so hopefully the double whammy helps there and the rest of my skin will be nice and soft due to the oil too! Thank you for the tip!!

      • seriously – it’s amazing stuff! i also felt weird using it at first, considering it’s an oil and all, but got over that pretty quickly!

        glad it’s working out for you!

  15. Hi Gretchen. Belated Merry Christmas. Yup, I have really dry skin in winter, AND, my hair goes dryer, and curlier. Hope you have a great day today. Cheers to hydration.

  16. I’m watching the news and they’re forecasting 20’s on Tuesday *GASP* but then 60’s next weekend- WTF mate?!

  17. My hands get really dry in the winter and crack…gross! They haven’t been as bad this year but then again it hasn’t been as cold…yet. I try to always put lotion on my hands after I wash my hands. I always have to have lotion in my purse. My favorite is the Mary Kay Satin Hands that my grandma gets me for Christmas every year. When I run out of that, I just use cocoa butter lotion!

  18. As someone with super dry skin in Wyoming, I’d like to offer cocoa butter (not lotion, the actual butter) as my suggestion. It’s a bit oily, but it works. My landlord suggests jojoba butter and coconut oil. I haven’t tried those yet, but they are next on my list. Shea butter also works for me. I guess it’s a butter thing for me-I avoid products with water in them, which is almost all of them and try to avoid petroleum products.

  19. I use aquafor all the time! Love it!

  20. My skin is the worst when the seasons change. Aquaphor is great but I slo love bath and body work’s blue spa hand cream. It’s awesome!

  21. I do the 50/50 vaseline/lotion mixture (my doctor recommended the vaseline mixed with a moisturizer I forget the name of – I’m too cheap to buy another cream so I just mix with the lotion I have). I find it does moisturizer much better than plain lotion.
    Need to get a humidifier for the bedroom…I’m working on it LOL
    Happy New Year Gretchen!

  22. I drove this week for the first time in winter conditions (that’s right, I’m on track to getting my Ontario license). Not only were the road conditions filled with obstacles, but the people on the road were CRAZY! I wondered if perhaps I should have waited until my next visit to Ottawa to drive in the snow… but I got out alive.

  23. I use Curel religiously on my hands before bed and it really helps me.

  24. Sooooo behind on blog reading! Anyhow – I’ve read in my old lady magazines that applying lotion while your skin is damp (like immediately after showering) is supposed to help lock in the moisture. I’ve done this a few times myself but it makes me too cold – as tho toooooo much moisture is locking in! I also suffer from the dry hands though and they actually bleed. I can’t help it tho – I love super hot showers and faucet temps! Good luck and keep us posted on your results.

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