How to Defeat Winter Itch

Illustration for article titled How to Defeat Winter Itch

There's no way around it: Winter in a temperate zone fucking blows. When it snows, everyone simultaneously forgets how to drive. Trains freeze, electric lines snap, everyone's cranky, and the snow severely limits footwear options and mobility. To make matters worse, dry air wreaks havoc on human tissue, from painful, crunchy boogers to scaly, irritated skin, making winter the Season of the Itch.


Thankfully, there are a lot of things you can try before you throw your scaly arms skyward and surrender to Mother Nature's moisture-stripping cruelty, but, unfortunately, many of them are unpleasant. Let's start with the least bad, and then work our way upward.

First, drink water constantly. Drink it in the morning, drink it in the evening, drink it at suppertime. When your legs look like reptile mummies, you should drink water any time.


Second, get thyself a good moisturizer. I'm not talking about the pink kind that smells like how The Body Shop thinks "Apple Kiss" smells or Victoria's Secret Love Spell or any heavily artificially scented goop; forego fragrances entirely, as they could irritate your already delicate dry skin. Anna says Cetaphil is a great option for sensitive skin; I've had decent luck with lotion formulated for babies. Eucerin isn't bad, either, and cocoa butter works just fine, as well. And Gold Bond isn't just for ballsacks; they make a medicated lotion that provides a cooling effect to itchy legs that is now my favorite thing in the entire world. Apply lotion while still wet from a shower, and keep applying as needed.

If you've let it get completely out of hand, you may have to resort to desperate measures. I know a young woman who totally isn't me who once had such bad winter itch that she left actual scratch marks in her shins and had to apply Neosporin, Vaseline, and knee socks for a week in order to restore her epidermis. Another person who isn't me at all spent childhood winters going to sleep every night with her feet slathered in petroleum jelly and thick socks. Once, this slippery combination caused her to fall down the stairs. These two anecdotes should teach you a valuable lesson: first, don't scratch the shit out of your legs, no matter how tempted you are. Second, don't try to walk down stairs wearing Vaseline with socks over the top. Very bad traction.

Now that you're lubed up, let's examine possible environmental causes for your skin's irritation with everyone and everything. As glorious as a hot shower feels when it's 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside, hot water saps moisture away from skin and can make your reptile problem even worse. Avoid hot showers, body lotion that contains fragrances, and shaving your legs, at least for a little while.

The chemicals in your detergent might also be causing your skin to have a conniption. Switch from whatever you're using to something mild, like Dreft, especially for your bedsheets.


And, oddly enough, popping an antihistamine like Benadryl before bed can relieve some of the grief brought on by itchy skin. Anna says a Claritin in the morning works as well.

A very unpleasant last resort for fighting the unscratchable itch is taking something cold like an icepack and just holding it against the skin for awhile. Try turning the heat down in your house or apartment. Or, go outside for a walk in the cold.


And finally, if none of these things work and you're still itching up a storm, it might be time to see a doctor to see if there's something besides dry skin afoot.

In the meantime, avoid reading or writing blog posts about being itchy, because by the end of them, you'll be driven nearly mad with thoughts of itching. I'm further sorry to report that painful winter boogers have no known cure.

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Every winter the skin above my nose & in between my eyebrows freaks out, and this year is no different. It is extremely flakey and the skin underneath it looks irritated. It doesn't look as bad as excema though and it does not itch at all.

I use natural skin care products, including an exfoliating cleanser. The problem I have is that I can't use any of the intense moisturizers even if it's just for that spot, because my skin will break out. The only thing worse than a patch of gross-looking skin is a patch of grosser-looking skin that hurts from a cystic zit. I learned this the hard way last week (side note: I'm almost 25, shouldn't I have outgrown zits?!)

Anyone have any solutions?