Why Does My Skin Itch?

Are your arms, hands, legs and head feeling itchy this winter? Don’t fret. More likely than not, you just need to give your skin a little extra tender loving care during cold-weather months.

“The No. 1 thing that leads to itchy skin is that people aren’t doing basic dry skin care,” says dermatologist Dr. Heidi Waldorf, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Follow these simple steps to keep your body smooth and itch-free this winter.

Rethink Your Bath Routine

A hot shower may take away winter’s chill, but it also takes moisturizing oils away from your skin. Waldorf recommends using lukewarm water instead. Wash with a gentle cleanser, and don’t bathe for more than 10 minutes. “When you come out of the shower or bath, pat dry and then moisturize,” she suggests.

Swap Bubbles for Oil

Speaking of baths, it’s best to save the bubble baths for warmer weather. “Bath salts and bubble baths are generally drying,” says Waldorf. “Use a nice bath oil instead.”

Don’t Skimp on the Lotion

Do you steer clear of moisturizers because you don’t want your skin to feel greasy? On the contrary, says Waldorf -- using these creams and lotions daily will make your skin softer and less itchy. “Most people just don’t moisturize enough,” says Waldorf. “For a lot of people, the answer may be as simple as increasing their moisturizing to more than once a day. Moisturize in the morning and at night if you’re very dry.”

Check Ingredients

When you’re buying a moisturizing cream or lotion, read the label to make sure it has humectants (like glycerin or vegetable oil), which hold the moisture in your skin longer and keep the dryness at bay. If you have super-itchy “hot spots” in specific areas of your body, try an over-the-counter cream containing hydrocortisone.

“Increase your moisturizing to more than once a day and use the hydrocortisone cream on the areas where you’re having problems,” says Waldorf. “If that’s not enough, then see a dermatologist. You probably need a prescription-strength cream.”

Medicate Your Scalp

Does your head itch in the winter? “It’s most likely seborrheic dermatitis, which is in the range between dandruff and psoriasis,” says Waldorf. Time for a medicated shampoo specially formulated for dandruff. “The most important thing is to get it on the scalp itself,” she adds. Lathering twice helps ensure the shampoo reaches the skin. If special shampoo doesn’t do the trick, consult a