Winter weather can do more than make your teeth chatter. Windy days and freezing temperatures can also be tough on the skin, especially for seniors. Older adults are prone to age-related skin conditions, such as eczema and dermatitis. Both can leave skin feeling itchy and irritated year-round.

With frigid outdoor elements and drier air in the house caused by the furnace, it’s easy to see why winter can further exacerbate skin problems. While most people have their own skin care regimen, there are other steps older adults can take to protect their skin during the frostiest months of the year. Here are some to explore this winter.

Winter Skin Care Tips for Seniors

  • Add humidity to the house: Unless the furnace in your house has a built-in humidifier, you’ll probably need to add moisture back into the air. One way is by setting the thermostat lower, especially overnight. It may also help to place humidifiers in the rooms you spend the most time in. A word of caution: make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for care, which usually include using distilled water and cleaning the unit frequently.
  • Stay hydrated: Many people know to drink extra water when it’s hot and humid outside, but hydration is important in the winter, too. In addition to drying out skin, dehydration contributes to sagging skin, which makes you appear older. The general recommendation is to consume 8 to 10 glasses of water every day, but check with your physician to be sure.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen: We generally think about layering on sunscreen on sunny summer days. It’s an essential step for guarding against skin cancers, like melanoma. Winter can be equally risky. The sun reflecting off of the snow can leave you with a painful “snow burn.” Make a habit of applying sunscreen every morning, but especially when you will be spending time outside or riding in a car.
  • Change your moisturizer: Heavy moisturizers might leave your skin feeling greasy when it’s warm outside, but they are perfect for winter. Rich moisturizers for the face and body can protect your skin. This list of recommendations might help you find one you like.
  • Take shorter showers: While a long, hot shower might sound inviting when you are cold, it can dry out your skin. Keeping the water lukewarm instead of hot and making showers brief is kinder on older skin. Apply a good quality moisturizer afterward, too.
  • Bundle up outdoors: When the mercury falls below freezing, frostbite can occur fairly quickly. It is especially dangerous when it’s both cold and windy outside. Prevent skin damage by bundling up before you head outside. A hat, mittens or gloves, and a scarf to shield your face will help. Try to keep any area of your skin from being exposed.

Despite your best efforts, you might still experience dry and cracked skin this winter. It might be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. The doctor can determine if there is an underlying health issue or allergy that might be causing your skin challenges.

More Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

If you are the family caregiver for a senior loved one, there are other winter hazards to be aware of. “Creating a Winter Safety Plan for a Senior Loved One” has good information that you might find useful.