Why does your pores and skin itch in winter?

Winter itching, also known as pruritus hiemalis, is a type of dermatitis (skin irritation or inflammation) caused by cold weather and irritated by other factors. You may have had winter itching in the past when you noticed dry, red, flaky skin after getting cold in the cold. Small cracks in the skin and bleeding may also occur.If youIf you

Fortunately, winter itching can be prevented, or at least treated, in those at higher risk. Frequent and aggressive humidification can help, as can a humidifier, lukewarm water, and much more.

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Winter itching is sometimes referred to as a winter rash, but it’s actually not a rash at all. Winter itchiness is caused by cold, dry air that draws moisture from your skin.If youIt doesn’t cause a rash either. Skin affected by winter itchiness generally appears healthy but slightly dry. Winter itching occurs in the fall and winter and clears up in the summer months.

It can affect any part of the body, but is most commonly found on the legs. Typical areas are the inner thighs above and behind the knees, on the calves and around the ankles.If youHands, feet, face or scalp are not affected.

Common symptoms of winter itching include:If youIf you

  • dryness
  • Redness
  • Scaling
  • itching
  • Small cracks in the skin
  • Bleeding

Risk factors

Winter itching can happen to anyone, but some are more at risk than others. If you’ve had sensitive skin in the past, be sure to use an extra moisturizer to protect your skin during the colder months.


As we age, our skin becomes thinner and drier. This increases the risk for older people of developing irritated, dry skin in winter. Environmental factors such as temperature can further exacerbate this problem. Research has shown that cold, low-humidity air during the winter months can decrease skin moisture and cause dry skin in the elderly.If youIf you

Pre-existing dry skin

If you have dry skin, you are more likely to develop winter itchiness. Chronic skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis can be made worse by cold, dry air. Talk to your dermatologist about how you can protect your skin and treat any flare-ups in the winter.


The exact cause of winter itching is unknown. We know it is triggered by cold, dry air. While this usually means the weather is responsible, other factors can contribute to making your skin prone to winter itchiness as well.


Cold weather causes or worsens dry skin due to the lack of moisture in the air. Cold air is dry air, and this dryness can pull moisture away from the top layers of the skin. You may also experience winter itchiness in the warmer months if you spend time indoors. The air coming from an air conditioner is often drier than the winter air, which leads to more dryness and irritation of the skin.


After being outdoors in freezing temperatures, nothing sounds better than coming home for a long, hot shower. Unfortunately, this hot water will irritate your skin more than before. Hot water removes its natural oils from your skin, causing dryness and redness. This is why it is so helpful to apply a moisturizer after you shower or wash your hands. Your skin is particularly dry and needs to be hydrated.


Exposure to chemicals can lead to dry skin even in the winter months. Frequent hand washing is an important safety measure to protect against viruses, but it is gentle on your skin. The chemicals in certain soaps remove moisture from your hands, increasing the risk of redness, dryness, and cracking. The chlorine in swimming pools is another example of chemicals that dry out the skin.

Eat your way to healthier skin

One easy way to support your skin in winter is to eat healthy. What we eat affects the makeup of our skin cells. The more nutritious foods we eat, the better they work. To combat dry winter skin, always take a water bottle with you. When you’re well hydrated, your skin has access to more of the moisture it needs. Include some water rich foods like:

  • Cucumbers
  • Watermelon
  • celery
  • Soup broth

Next, add more foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Examples are fish, flax seeds, and walnuts. Omega-3 fats help cells retain moisture. Adding protein to your diet will help damaged cells repair themselves. Try fish, poultry, lentils, and low-fat dairy products. Finally, Vitamins A, C, and E are known to reduce inflammation in the body and help relieve pain and redness in the skin. Reach for fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for better skin.If youIf you


A dry rash can sometimes be confused with other skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis. To know if it is itchy in winter, pay close attention to when it started and what makes it worse. When you see a dermatologist, they will take a detailed medical history to determine whether the cold, dry air is causing your symptoms.If youIf you


To prevent winter itching, your skin needs to retain as much moisture as possible. Start by investing in a thick moisturizer that you can use frequently throughout the day. Be sure to moisturize every time you wash your hands or shower. Using a humidifier in your bedroom at night could also help.

If you are outside, minimize exposure to cold air with adequate protection. Always wear gloves and a scarf and then moisten.

Avoid using hot water in the shower or when washing hands. Try to limit showers to five minutes or less and turn the faucet to lukewarm instead of hot when washing your hands. After exiting the shower, pat your skin gently dry instead of rubbing it with the towel.

The wrong treatment can make it worse

Many over-the-counter products and natural remedies for winter itchiness sound safe, but they can make your skin more irritated. Alcohol and witch hazel act like damp skin the first time they are applied, but dry out your skin quickly after drying. Avoid these home remedies and speak to your dermatologist if you’re having trouble getting your winter skin under control.


Treatment options for winter itching include:If youIf you

  • Bathe in warm water before going to bed. Some people report a benefit from adding sodium bicarbonate to the water (a quarter cup of baking soda buzzed around in a full bath).
  • Moisturizers are the mainstay of treatment. Apply after bathing and whenever the skin itches or feels dry.
  • Wear light clothing like silk, linen, and muslin, as certain fabrics like flannel and wool clothing can make winter itchy symptoms worse.
  • Avoid irritating substances.
  • Use topical corticosteroids to treat secondary dermatitis.
  • Capsaicin cream can be useful on localized areas with persistent itching.

While they sound helpful, it’s best to avoid over-the-counter creams used to suppress itching. They’re often made with chemicals that can make winter itching worse.If youIf you

Moisten, moisten, moisten

The best way to treat and prevent winter itchiness is to keep your skin hydrated frequently. Cold, dry air is constantly drawing moisture from your skin, so the goal is to top that drying process with additional moisture from lotions and creams.

Opt for a thick cream with no added fragrance, as creams with strong fragrances can irritate sensitive skin. If you spend time outdoors, bring a little hand cream with you.


Winter itching got its name because it usually only occurs during the winter months. Once the weather warms up and the air gets a little more humid, your skin should return to normal. You could experience a single bout of winter itching, or it could last all winter.

Winter itching is common as winter comes every year. While some will only experience it once or twice in their lifetime, others will have to address it every year.If youOnce the weather cools down, moisturize regularly. Starting a regular lotion or cream before your skin shows signs of winter itchiness can help prevent or minimize dryness and irritation.


Winter itching is inherently uncomfortable and can lead to other problems as well. The dry skin that results from this condition is often very itchy, which can lead to scratches. If you scratch your dry skin, you are at greater risk of bleeding and infection.

While dry winter itch is frustrating in itself, it can also worsen underlying conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is patches of red, flaky, itchy skin. It is usually caused by sensitive skin and can flare up when exposed to cold, dry air. Psoriasis is an immune disorder characterized by thick patches of itchy, silvery, dry skin. Exposure to cold can make symptoms worse.

A word from Verywell

Winter itching is uncomfortable but treatable. Hopefully, if you’ve moisturized and cut down on hot showers frequently, you will soon see improvement. If not, it’s time to speak to your dermatologist about other ways you can protect your skin. The cracks that form from winter itching can lead to infection and pain. It is therefore important to fix this early on.

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