Football season is in full swing here in Dragon country. Heaters and fireplaces are firing up around the Southlake area, and our skin is often the first to fully recognize the changing of the seasons. Our faces begin to feel tight and dry. Lips start to feel chapped. Our hands, feet, and body begin to beg for moisture as sweater weather migrates into winter.

The best defense is a good offense. Like good coaches always teach, the best defense is a good offense. Having an offensive strategy heading into the winter season is the best way to protect skin of all ages from dryness and itching.

What causes red, dry, flaky skin?

Dry skin symptoms can appear over your full body or in localized areas. While not exclusively a seasonal complaint, as temperatures cool, our Southlake area dermatology office will most frequently treat patients who are experiencing dry skin in these areas:

Dry Hands

Dry and chapped hands may be a result of excessive water exposure (washing dishes, washing hands, using wipes and sanitizers).

Tip: Use a good moisturizing hand soap. One that our Southlake-area dermatologist office recommends is: Softsoap® Soothing Aloe Vera Liquid Hand Soap because it is more hydrating than soaps without moisturizer.

Dry Feet

Dry feet and heels are a common complaint. If fissures or cracks occur, they can present a more painful problem.

Tip: Keeping feet moisturized is easiest overnight by applying a moisturizer such as Aquaphor Healing Ointment and wearing socks while you sleep.  A more intensive over-the-counter treatment that I discovered is Baby Foot. This is essentially similar to a chemical peel for the skin on your feet. Baby Foot uses fruit acids that allow the dead skin cells to peel off over a few days following the application of the gel inside the booties.  This results in smoother and softer feet.  If these over-the-counter solutions do not provide sufficient relief, it is wise to see a dermatologist to determine if a prescription urea cream is required to help prevent more intense drying or cracking.

Dry Legs

The area between the ankle and the knee is the most common place for “winter itch” to occur. Children may tend to scratch this area at bedtime if it is not properly moisturized, so a good unscented moisturizer is important for little legs, too.

Tip: Moisturizing regularly after bath is recommended.  I frequently recommend Cerave and Cetaphil creams. 

The Best Offensive Strategy

Stay hydrated. In winter, we may not drink water as frequently as we do during warmer months. Drink 8 glasses of water daily to stay hydrated. Symptoms of dehydration are sometimes seen in the skin on your hands.

Tip: A quick way to determine if your body is dehydrated is a pinch test. Pinch the skin on the back of your hand and let go. If the skin bounces back to its normal position quickly, you are not dehydrated. If the skin slowly returns to its original position, you are mildly to moderately dehydrated and need to drink fluids immediately. But if the skin sticks together once you’ve let go, this is indicative of severe dehydration and requires urgent medical attention. When a patient at our Southlake area dermatologist office mentions their skin is extremely dry or feeling tight and flaky, I will ask, “How many times a day are you bathing?” Adjusting your AM and PM skincare routines may be the most immediate way to remedy dry skin:

Daily Routine

  • Stay hydrated with 8 glasses of water per day.
  • Shower/bathe once a day, 10 minutes or less, with warm (not hot) water and use a moisturizing soap (bar or liquid). In general, when trying to decide what products to use, choose a moisturizing cleanse.
    Recommended: Dove Beauty Bar or Body Wash Note, if you have highly allergic skin, Dove makes an unscented soap.
  • Moisturize twice daily (morning/night) When you exit the bath, lightly pat dry and apply a moisturizer to damp skin for both body and face. This seals moisture onto the surface of the skin and will give you a better overall result from the moisturizer. If you are dry, when choosing a moisturizer a good rule of thumb is to remember, the thicker, the better. If it comes out of a pump, it’s probably not thick enough. I recommend creams that comes in either a tube or tub.
    Recommended: Cetaphil or CeraVe are also excellent over-the-counter moisturizers which are non-comedogenic (non-pore-clogging) so they may be used on both face and full body.

When it’s more than just dry skin

Excessively dry skin can include a feeling of tight skin and possibly, itching, flaking or red rashes. Not all dry skin is the same.  If your symptoms do not resolve with over-the-counter solutions and the above self-care routines, then need consulting a board-certified dermatologist is recommended. You may be experiencing garden-variety dry skin (xerosis). However, your condition may potentially be eczema, psoriasis or dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis). These conditions typically require a prescription regimen that may include a cortisone cream or other topical from the pharmacy. To ensure that you do not have a condition that needs medical attention, it’s best to ask your dermatologist.

At our Southlake area dermatology office, we will determine if the condition may require a prescription and can offer advice for the optimal daily skin care routine. Fortunately, today there are now multiple prescription moisturizers that have an increased concentration or level of ceramides, (which are found in the natural moisture barrier in our skin). You can’t cure dry skin. You can only control it. Knowing what to do daily or weekly will help you manage it. We are proud to serve our patients in Southlake, Westlake, Grapevine, Colleyville, Trophy Club, Roanoke and the surrounding areas.  Please let us know how we can best meet the needs of you and your family.

Signing off to beautiful and hydrated skin,


Sara Greer, M.D.