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Cold Weather Causes Dry Skin Itching, Frostnip and Even Frostbite

Skin Itching

  • A severe lack of moisture is what causes dry skin, something that’s likely to happen when the temperature drops and the humidity follows it
  • Avoiding long, hot showers that steal moisture away from skin will help treat and dry skin irritation
  • A good dry skin lotion or skin moisturizer is just one of many
  • Two of the most damaging and serious skin conditions relating to cold weather are frostnip and frostbite. Both result as a consequence of freezing temperatures and a complete loss of moisture to the skin


With the winter months approaching quickly, most of us are more worried about our heating bills than about our skin. However, cold weather can do more damage than you might think. In fact, while most people think summer is the worse season for skin damage because of the intense ultraviolet light and the increase in sun exposure the truth is that cold weather can definitely damage your skin.

Winter Care for Skin

Even if you don’t spend a long time in the cold weather, there’s a good chance your skin is being affected by the drop in temperature. One of the main ways is that the combination of the cold weather and the heater in your home work together to drain your skin of all its healthy moisture. That means you will have cracked, irritated, and dry itchy skin.

To combat that dryness, you should replace the moisture by using oil-based lotions and run a humidifier at home to return some moisture to the air. You should also avoid very hot, very long showers and too much bathing which further dry out your skin. Staying well hydrated is also important. We tend not to drink as much fluids in the winter but they are just as important as in the summer.

Also, just because the temperature is cold that doesn’t mean the UV light is cutting your skin any breaks. If you’re going outdoors for some fun in the snow even for a short time, you should use sunscreen. Don’t skimp on the SPF factors either. An SPF of 15 or more is recommended.

Serious Cold Weather Damage

Of course, the type of skin damage described above is mild compared to more extreme cases, such as frostnip and frostbite. Both conditions are caused by extended exposure to cold weather and both primarily affect the parts of the body with the least blood flow, such as the fingers, toes, cheeks, and ears.

Frostnip is the least severe condition. Only the upper layers of the epidermis are affected, and the damage is easy to reverse. You should immediately move into a warmer area if parts of you body begin feeling numb, feeling rubbery, or becoming very waxy looking. If you suspect you are suffering from frostnip, do not rub the affected areas because the friction could cause further damage. Instead, just go into a warm shelter and let the heat work its magic.

Frostbite is a much more serious condition. Instead of affecting the upper layers of the skin like frostnip, frostbite involves the formation of ice crystals within your skin. That means your skin is literally freezing. These crystals destroy the tissue inside of the skin and can eventually cause that part of the body to die meaning amputation will be required. The same areas of the body, such as hands and feet, are normally affected by frostbite, too.

The signs of frostbite include a wooden sensation in your skin, a change in skin color to a very white shade, and numbness. The affected body part needs to be warmed as soon as possible by placing in warm water until color returns. Then the area must be dried and wrapped in gauze while also being kept in a warm environment. Within 30 minutes, the numbness should begin to fade. If not, a doctor should be contacted.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.

2 Responses to “Cold Weather Causes Dry Skin Itching, Frostnip and Even Frostbite”

  1. 1
    GIL Says:
    hI, i had a football game on sunday and the temp was really low(nyc)..somewhere in the low 20"s but wind chill made it wrst. I had football gloves on throughoput the game but my hands still became very cold and by halftime..i started to feel that numbing sensation when your hands become really cold from snow,etc...once the game ended, i started to warm them up during the car ride...they were still a bit numb and funny feeling..its now wed....numbing/funny feeling still present...should i continue to warm up bc im really nervous..i read about amputation..i wuould think this is not out the ordinary since most guys play football in very cold weather...please respond....
  2. 2
    Peter Says:
    If you are going to be out in the cold, protect you skin. I lost two toes to frostbite after doing work outside in some seriously cold weather and I do not wish that on anyone. Wear layers even on your hands.