Our skin is not only the envelope that protects us and holds everything in, it’s our first physical interaction with others. When something isn’t quite right with our skin, we can feel and see it, and others can too.
We can spend a great deal of money and time to care for our skin. No matter how much we lavish, however, when cold weather sets in, our skin seems to forget all that we’ve done for it and we can quickly develop a dry skin rash.
The reasons for this are a perfect storm, as it were: lower temperatures mean lower humidity in the air and dry indoor heat sucks it up even further. This causes the water normally stored in the top layers of skin to evaporate. (1)
What is a Winter Rash?
When the skin becomes overly dry, it can become irritated and develop into a winter rash. This is common and can occur every year as winter sets in. Symptoms of dry skin rashes differentiate them from basic dry skin.
- scaly red patches
- cracks in the skin
These signs are often found on the extremities but can appear anywhere on the body, causing irritation and discomfort. Areas affected can be large or small, with dry patches on the skin here and there.
People with the following existing conditions are more prone to winter rash (2):
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- eczema – a chronic inflammatory, painful skin condition that results in rashes and/or blisters with dry, cracked, scaly patches. There in no one cause of eczema but it is a known symptom of a compromised immune system.
- rosacea – a bacterial infection of the skin that appears red with pus-filled bumps (3)
- dermatitis – a term for a group of inflammatory dry skin rashes including eczema, contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, and radiodermatitis (4)
- sensitive skin
If you combine the reduction in environmental humidity that occurs during colder months with other triggers, you become more susceptible to a rash from dry skin:
- sensitivity to personal care, household, and environmental chemicals
- bacterial or viral infection
- latex allergy
- sunburn (snow reflects up to 80% of sunlight)
- hot showers
If your carnal envelope is lovely and supple in warmer months but turns into dry itchy skin when it gets cold, the problem is most likely a case of moisture loss. If you experience the visible signs of skin rash, however, special care is required.
Fortunately, we have some great remedies to share.
12 Home Remedies For A Dry Skin Rash
Say goodbye to itchy skin and a painful dry skin rash!
1. Coconut Oil
“Xerosis” is the medical term for dry skin. A 2004 study tested the efficacy of coconut oil versus mineral oil as a moisturizing treatment for xerosis. It found that coconut oil is more effective than its counterpart in hydrating the skin and increasing skin lipid (fat) levels with no adverse side effects. (5)
This is excellent news, as mineral oil is a petroleum product that uses harmful chemicals in its distillation and is a known carcinogen.
Coconut oil is light and gentle enough to even soothe a dry skin rash on your face.
Best of all, the oil is easy to find and easy to apply: simply scrape a little out of the jar (use a separate jar for your skin than you do for cooking) and rub it in as often as you like. Hydrating effects will last quite a while. Click here for a guide on different varieties of coconut oil and what to look for.
2. Olive Oil
Olive oil is exceptionally nutritious, whether applied topically or ingested. In fact, studies have shown it to be an effective prevention against radiodermatitis. (6) In addition, the phenolic compound oleocanthal in olive oil offers anti-inflammatory properties to soothe dry skin and reduce irritation. (7) This fruit oil has been used since ancient times to treat a variety of skin conditions, including many types of rashes, wounds, and burns. (8) Lastly, it’s worthy of note that oleocanthal kills cancer cells in less than an hour. (9)
To use olive oil to treat winter dry skin: eat at least 2 ounces of unheated organic, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil a day to get at inflammation from within and apply topically to moisturize and prevent precious water from evaporating from your skin.
3. Neem Oil
Neem is a herb found in the Near East and is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine for skin health, and maintenance of the gums. Its extract has antibacterial properties and is known to relieve boils, blisters, and acne. (10) Even chronic skin conditions respond to neem, as it is effective in the treatment of psoriasis, eczema, ringworm, and warts. (11)
Neem oil conditions skin and locks in moisture. They contain the phytochemicals nimbin and nimbidin are part of the limonoid family of compounds, which are antioxidant, antibacterial, and contain natural steroids that calm the immune system, stopping itch and reducing inflammation. (12, 13)
Some people are sensitive to neem, so dab a little on the inside of your elbow and wait 24 hours to monitor any reaction before applying more widely.
To use neem:
- Crush a few neem leaves, mix them with 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder and apply it to your skin.
- Mix neem oil with a carrier oil (such as coconut or olive) using a ratio of 1-3 drops of neem to 1 teaspoon of carrier. Apply to the affected area 3-4 times daily.
4. DIY Dry Skin Body Oil Recipe
This recipe includes hemp seed oil, which has been found to significantly improve atopic dermatitis. Its omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids nourish, moisturize, heal, and promote moisture retention in the skin. (14) This oil is great for all types of rashes.
- 4 oz.hemp seed oil
- 1 ½ oz.argan oil
- 2 oz.jojoba oil
- ½ oz.rosehip seed oil or tamanu oil
- ¼ teaspoon vitamin E oil
- 1/8 teaspoon rosemary extract
- ½ teaspoon of essential oil of choice, optional
- Weigh the carrier oils for this recipe using a digital kitchen scale. Pour into a glass container with a lid.
- Using a different pipette for each oil, measure out the vitamin E and rosemary extract. Add to the container of oils.
- If desired, you can also add up to ½ teaspoon of your favorite essential oil(s). Stir and store in a cool, dark place.
5. Oatmeal Bath
Oatmeal isn’t just an anecdotal remedy for skin rashes—it’s a proven winner.
- polysaccharides (long-chain sugars) that keep moisture in the skin.
- Fats that act as an emollient and form a protective barrier, relieving an itch.
- antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that nourish your skin and speed healing. (15)
The easiest way to apply oatmeal all over is by taking an oatmeal bath. Grind up 1 cup of raw oats in a blender or food processor until they are a fine powder, then slowly pour it into the bathtub as it fills with water (not too hot, which can add to dryness and irritation!). Soak for 15 minutes or so, pat dry and apply the body oil of your choice (try #4 above!) to retain moisture.
6. Milk Bath
It’s said that one of Cleopatra’s beauty secrets was regular bathing in milk. Fats in milk help your skin retain moisture, while lactic acid helps to break down and remove dead skin cells. Its proteins, vitamins, and minerals nourish the skin and promote healthy cell growth.
- 1 cup whole milk (goat, cow, rice, soy, or coconut)
- 1/4 cup non-GMO oats, finely ground
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 3-5 drops of essential oil of your choice (try a soothing oil such as chamomile or lavender)
- Combine the milk, oats, and baking soda in a large glass container. Put the lid on and shake the jar until completely mixed.
- Remove the cap and add the essential oil. Re-cap the jar and shake to combine.
- To use, pour into your bath under warm running water. Lie back and relax!
7. Apple Cider Vinegar Bath
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) contains a wealth of nutrients and can be used to fix a plethora of skin ailments. ACV moderates immune system response while beta carotene stimulates new healthy skin growth. Potassium balances skin’s pH, reducing irritation.
ACV is also antibacterial, which will get rid of any harmful organisms that may be causing or exacerbating your skin problem. Make sure to use organic, raw, unfiltered ACV to get the full nutrient powerhouse. (You may wonder why it’s important to use organic products on the skin. In answer, remember that anything you put on your skin is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.)
Pour 1-2 cups of ACV into your bath as it fills with warm (not hot) water. Option: add 1/3 cup coconut oil that’s been warmed on the stovetop to melt. Soak in the bath for 15 minutes and gently pat your skin dry.
8. Homemade Dry Skin Soap
Making your own soap isn’t as intimidating as it may sound. Soap takes some time to fully set but it’s worth it. True soap is made from saponified oils as opposed to detergent, which is usually made from synthetic materials. Healthy oils are what you need to soothe and heal your skin. Harsh chemicals will only make matters worse.
You can use this soap at any time of year and variations are many, so feel free to experiment and adapt for each the season.
- cocoa butter
- 9 oz. shea butter
- 6 oz. palm (fruit) oil
- 7 oz. 76° melt point refined coconut oil
- 2 oz. soybean oil
- 6 oz. avocado oil
- 9 oz. hemp seed oil
- 6 oz. sweet almond oil
- 6 oz. olive oil
- 28 fluid oz. distilled water
- 9 oz. lye (100% sodium hydroxide)
- 2 oz. essential oil of choice
- Practice soapmaking safety and wear rubber gloves and goggles. Keep vinegar on hand to neutralize any lye that may spill on surfaces and water to flush lye that may land on the skin.
- Start by measuring out your distilled water in a pitcher.
- Weigh out your lye and slowly pour it into the water in a well-ventilated area or outside. Stir with a clean stick and set aside in a safe place.
- Now weigh out your butters and oils into a large non-aluminum pot. Place on the stove top and heat over medium heat until thoroughly melted.
- Turn off heat and set aside to cool to about 100°F.
- While you wait, line soap molds with a bit of oil to make the soap easier to remove once set.
- Slowly pour the lye-water into the oil and mix with a stick blender.
- Mix in the essential oils that you have chosen.
- Once thoroughly mixed, pour your soap into the molds. Then cover the molds and insulate with bath towels for twenty-four hours.
- Once set, unmold your soaps and immediately cut them into bars or set them aside to cure for at least three weeks before use.
9. DIY Winter Cream
This rich cream is thick, penetrating, and protective. Anything that bees make is remarkable and beeswax is no exception: it is the stuff that hives are made of. Full of nutrition and emollients, beeswax adds a very delicate scent. Avocado oil is made from the avocado tree and contains much of the same nutrient value that the mighty avocado fruit does, including monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids to moisturize; vitamins and minerals to nourish; and antioxidants to speed healing.
A little of this cream goes a long way.
- 1/8 cup grated beeswax
- 1/3 cup organic coconut oil
- 1/4 cup organic sweet almond oil
- 1 cup organic, unrefined shea butter or organic cocoa butter
- A few drops of the essential oil of your choice such as lavender or grapefruit (only use with shea butter)
- 1 tablespoon organic honey (only use with cocoa butter)
- 1 tablespoon aloe vera gel (only use with cocoa butter)
- Add all the ingredients except essential oils, honey and/or aloe vera in a double boiler on the stove over medium heat until the beeswax, coconut oil and butter melt. Stir and heat until well combined and liquid.
- Remove from heat and place the bowl in a larger bowl of cold water to cool the mixture. Make sure that the water and cream do not mix.
- Add the essential oils, honey and/or aloe vera and stir until completely dissolved in the mixture.
- As the cream becomes more opaque and spoon into a clean jar with a lid.
- Place it in the fridge until it chills and hardens.
- Store in a cool, dry, dark place.
10. Use a Humidifier
Since low ambient humidity is a major contributor to dry skin rashes, adding moisture back to the air is the simple solution. An indoor humidity of 45-55% is optimal to prevent skin from drying out and to help to maintain its moisture. However, higher humidity can promote mold formation. (16)
Additional moisture in the air will also help your respiratory system from getting dry and raw from central heat. It’s important to regularly clean out a humidifier to keep mold and mildew from growing—wipe daily with a cloth soaked in hydrogen peroxide to disinfect. Clean and let dry between uses.
11. Wear Natural Fabrics
Synthetic fabrics are more likely to cause or increase skin irritation. When fighting dry winter skin, opt for soft, natural, breathable fibers, such as cotton, merino wool, silk, linen, and hemp. In addition, wearing loose-fitting clothing reduces chafing.
12. Shower Less Frequently
Long hot showers may feel good but they’re not good for your skin, causing dryness and irritation.
- Take a short lukewarm bath or shower (no more than 10 minutes) only once in a 24 hour period.
- Use soap only where needed (for example, under the arms, around the groin area, the feet, and the face).
- Use mild natural, unscented soap designed for sensitive skin)
- After showering, quickly and gently pat the skin partially dry with a towel. Immediately afterward, apply cream or oil to protect your skin.
- Reapply cream throughout the day as needed, particularly on the hands.
How to Prevent Winter Rash
The best way to treat a dry skin rash is not to develop one!
- Keep healthy by eating well and exercising – most forms of dermatitis are caused or made worse by a weakened immune system.
- Stay warm – you may feel goofy getting all bundled up but you’re protecting your skin by covering it from the elements while outdoors.
- Keep stress levels manageable – stress affects your skin’s ability to retain water. (17)
- Avoid products containing alcohol like hand sanitizers, shaving creams, and facial scrubs—these dry out skin in short order.
- Avoid tanning beds, as they dry skin and increase your risk for cancer. (18)
- Wear gloves and proper footwear whenever you go outside in the colder months.
- Stay hydrated – your skin loses water from the outside so it’s important to drink enough water.
- Eat foods that support skin hydration.
- Consider adding a vitamin D supplement and/or fish oil to your diet to encourage the production of skin-protecting oils.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
Your skin is your protection against and first impression to the outside world. That’s why it’s important to keep it moisturized and healthy to avoid dry skin rash and other skin problems, especially in the winter months.