Moisturizer for winter skin?
November 8, 2007 4:53 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a moisturizer or moisturizing body wash or whatever that will keep my skin from itching all winter.

My skin gets dry in the winter. In the past, I've used soap to shower, followed by Vaseline Intensive Care - and just sucked it up when that wasn't enough to keep my skin from itching. I am becoming more comfortable with my Inner Girl and want to use a more feminine-feeling product than the Vaseline moisturizer (but not flowery! I am allergic to lilacs and find flowery perfumes annoying).

So far, this year, I've been using Suave coconut-scented moisturizing body wash, which is less drying than soap but still not enough moisture. The only moisturizing product I have other than that is a Bath & Body Works Fresh Vanilla cream, which smells great, and works great on my legs, but is too oily or something for my arms, which get little bumps (like miniature almost-pimples) when I use it.

I am also using Dove Sensitive Skin facial lotion on my face, which works great. I don't want to use it on my body though (assuming that would even work), because I'd go through a bottle in a week.

Ideally I'd like a soap-replacement which smells like a yummy food item or berry (or is scentless but not astringent- or chemical-smelling) and is moisturizing enough that I don't have to use anything else. Failing that, a combo of body wash and after-shower moisturizer. And I'd like the cost to be modest - say, a winter's supply would not exceed $30.

posted by joannemerriam to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (50 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Try cetaphil. It is recommended by skin doctors.

I use it.

Amazon reviews at
posted by tom123 at 4:57 PM on November 8, 2007

I wash almost exclusively (ie no soap) with a body scrub I make of brown sugar, vanilla extract, and olive oil.

Cheap and fabulous for that really awful dry skin that never goes away in the winter. And I don't smell. I promise.
posted by aetg at 4:59 PM on November 8, 2007

you can get two tubs of the body shop's body butters for $30—i love their coconut and my mom swears by their olive oil, but they've got lots of other really yummy scents, there's bound to be at least two or three that you'll like.
posted by lia at 5:00 PM on November 8, 2007

Aveeno, perhaps?
posted by scody at 5:02 PM on November 8, 2007

posted by aetg at 5:02 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I gotta say - I think that regardless of what you shower with, you HAVE to moisturize afterwards if you really don't want dry skin. Nothing you rinse off is going to leave you with enough moisture in your skin.
posted by tristeza at 5:10 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I get those bumps on the back of my arms. They say exfoliation helps.

Are you really against bar soap? If not, you might like SkinFree. There is a comparison between SkinFree and Dove Sensitive Skin on the site. I haven't tried it but it has been getting rave reviews, especially from people with eczema. I work with the company (weird, in all the years I've been on here, I've never mentioned companies I work with. But now I've done it twice in two weeks) and if you send me a mefi msg, I'll send you a sample.
posted by necessitas at 5:12 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Aveeno, sugar scrub, and Body Shop body butters all saved me from itching to death when I lived in a dry, cold climate. The Aveeno shower gel is also really great and has a light yummy smell (much better than the lotion).
posted by slowfasthazel at 5:13 PM on November 8, 2007

I'm not sure on what kind of soap (I use lever 2000 moisturizing body wash), but AFTER the bath, towel off and then rub on some baby oil+aloe, followed by Cetaphil, or your more girly lotion of choice.

I was plagued with very dry skin all my life, year round, and this has definitely been the best combo.

Also, keeping the showers as short as possible, without scalding hot water seems to help too.
posted by Espoo2 at 5:13 PM on November 8, 2007

This isn't expensive or girly or lush or even scented, but half shea butter and half organic coconut oil is an amazing moisturizer. No chemicals, no scent, natural, sinks right in, inexpensive. Your skin will never be flaky or scaly again. You can use day or night, on any part of your body, and it can also pinch hit as massage oil and shoe shine ;) I mix them together in my blender until they look like meringue. Also, I second what aetg said...that scrub is awesome and sublime!

You certainly don't want to get the hose again, hmm?

You just joined today? Could you refrain from jokey unhelpful comments on AskMe? Especially those that reference Silence of the Lambs or Fight Club.
posted by iconomy at 5:14 PM on November 8, 2007

Seconding Cetaphil. My legs itch like crazy in the winter and have for years. Cetaphil is the only moisturizer that has relieved the dryness that causes the itching. It can be on the pricier side of lotions but is well worth it.
posted by inconsequentialist at 5:14 PM on November 8, 2007

Thirding Cetaphil -- but really the only thing that keeps my skin from totally drying out in the winter is jojoba oil.
posted by mothershock at 5:24 PM on November 8, 2007

Your itchy skin might just be dryness, but I think all your fragranced products are irritating already dry skin. I'd cut out everything fragranced (including perfume and laundry detergent, and watch where your hair touches your skin if you use hair products).

I used to use Aveeno, and now I use Curel unscented moisturizer. I'd say they give the same results, but the Aveeno is a little greasier. Put it on liberally AS SOON as you get out of the shower and bath. If you notice in a few minutes that your skin is seeming dry, slather on another pump of lotion.

Once you get your skin under control, you can start mixing back in your regular products (although at least for my dry skin, no fragrance is the only way to go). I do use perfume sometimes, but I have to avoid my neck, which is where the serious rashy itching happens for me.

You mention getting bumps on your arms, so you might try something exfoliating in the shower. Salt and oil scrubs have worked wonders for me when used infrequently. You can also just scrub gently with a washcloth.

I use Dove sensitive skin lotiony body wash in the shower, for what that's worth. I think it's unfragranced, although it does have a mild Dove-y smell to my nose, which is fine. If I'm having an extra itchy week I also like to put on a layer of hydrocortisone cream on the itchy parts under my lotion.

I know none of that is girly and glamorous, sorry... at least it's all cheap. I get my scent fix throughout the day with delicious hand creams, maybe that would work for you.
posted by robinpME at 5:25 PM on November 8, 2007

Since I see Cetaphil mentioned a few times already, I'll say that I don't care for it. I find it greasy but not at all moisturizing. I know tons of people love it, but it's not the solution for all dry skin.
posted by robinpME at 5:28 PM on November 8, 2007

aetg, are you willing to share the recipe?
posted by joannemerriam at 5:37 PM on November 8, 2007

The Aveeno stuff that Scody links to is what I liked. It doesn't smell like anything special but the oatmeal seems to be helpful with the itchiness. Id also agree to look into the scented stuf you use just to make sure none of them are making you itchy. You can make oatmeal scrubbies for the shower that are just some sort of cheeseclothish stuff with oatmeal and other naturally scented stuff. Good for exfoliating as well as not getting itchier.
posted by jessamyn at 5:38 PM on November 8, 2007

I have such dry skin that I have to be careful in the winter not to claw the skin off of my legs in my sleep. Yeah, I should drink even more water.

What works really really well for me is Aqua Glycolic. It's not at all girly. It's not as cheap as you'd like. I hate stuff that I have to special order and that does that stupid "not prescription but behind the counter BS." But damned if this stuff doesn't work.
posted by desuetude at 5:40 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would second(?) the suggestion to try to take cooler/shorter showers if you're not already. Scalding showers will dry my skin out with no other help.
posted by that girl at 5:46 PM on November 8, 2007

I am in love with that Olay Moisturinse stuff: it's sort of like conditioner for your skin. It's a lotion-like consistency, and you put it on in the shower, leave it for a bit, then rinse off. As I'm both dry-skinned and lazy, it's perfect for me. I'm way too lazy/in a rush to put on moisturizer all over my body after a shower. This moisturizes like a pretty intense lotion, too.

The downsides: it's scented, and yes, it will leave a residue on your shower floor over time. Easily scrubbed off when you clean, but still, it doesn't rinse clean like a soap or anything.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 5:54 PM on November 8, 2007

When my skin is SERIOUSLY itchy and dry and I just can't stand it, I use Sarna lotion. It works fantastically, but it smells like old people. You will smell like old people all day. But it works.
posted by tastybrains at 6:01 PM on November 8, 2007

I use LUSH's Dream Cream and it works like a dream. Another good one is the Body Shop's Monoi Miracle Oil - not for you if you hate gardenia, though.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:05 PM on November 8, 2007

I use Eucerin .. the intensive care stuff is really awesome. It's expensive, but available at most grocery stores.
posted by SpecialK at 6:06 PM on November 8, 2007

This is really helpful, everybody. Thanks - I will definitely try out these options. (aetg, I saw your link after I posted - my bad)
posted by joannemerriam at 6:06 PM on November 8, 2007

Eucerin all the way. Cetaphil makes a good cleanser, but the lotion is sticky.
posted by Orrorin at 6:14 PM on November 8, 2007

Consume water.

That said, I'm a thirty-two-year-old woman of normal size who is all-too-often mistaken as (at least) a decade younger. I dislike overt smells in my products. I know that you, joannemerriam, want something feminine. Would you consider layering on a good, high-quality perfume after your washing routine?

I don't use a washcloth, a rag on a stick, or anything other than my hands for:
¤ Ivory soap all over
¤ 100% Aloe Vera Gel (Fruit of the Earth brand) all over
¤ Nivea Creme on the dry spots on my face
¤ Suave aloe with cucumber everywhere but my face.

I use St. Ives apricot scrub for deep exfoliation on my face and other tender areas and an occasional loofah-scrubbing on the underside of my arms to unclog pores.

Methinks your choice of soap makes the biggest difference.

Post shower, dab your body and face with the towel to leave a bit of moisture and use your moisturizer of choice.
posted by bonobo at 6:17 PM on November 8, 2007

Even better than Cetaphil is Aquaphor. My sister's pediatrician recommended it for her son, who has ichthyosis vulgaris.
posted by Sara Anne at 6:29 PM on November 8, 2007

i second cetaphil for the face. an exfoliating brush is great for flakes and dry skin, too.

for body, i like one of those generic plastic scrubbies, although a dense, high-quality one is better. i like olay ultra moisture wash for the body. follow it up with a shea butter or cocoa butter-based lotion (i like vaseline's version). if your skin is still dry after that, eucerin is good. if you're still dry after that, aquaphor. it's like vaseline, only not sticky.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:37 PM on November 8, 2007

I have fairly dry sensitive skin, but hate cetaphil - I just don't feel clean. And I do like strong scents (the alcohol in a lot of perfumes burn my skin, so I like scent from my shower products). All year around I use the Philosophy line of 3-1 body washes. In the winter I do an additional scrub of the Trader Joes tangerine body scrub. It leaves enough oil that I don't have to completely slather my body with lotion before I get dressed - just before bed. Since I've discovered this combination, I haven't had the bad winter skin like usual.
posted by librarianamy at 6:50 PM on November 8, 2007

Oil. Neutrogena Rainbath or drugstore version. Put it on as soon as you turn the water off in the shower (okay, step out on a mat or you'll leave the tile/tub slippery, but still dripping wet).

I buy the unscented version and mix up small bottles of it with scents of my choice from various online bath/cosmetic/perfumers, but that's not strictly necessary. I also like nice sugar scrubs from same niche providers, for all the same reasons. They are nice and oily.

The important part is to seal in moisture as soon as you're done bathing, which actually draws moisture out of your skin, so do your lubrication while there's water on you to help replenish what you've just lost. Get moisturizer on your face first, before your hands get oily. You can keep that in the shower for immediate application. I'm an Oil of Olay knockoff girl myself.

I have to do all that and run a humidifier and drink extra extra water, even in mild (but dry and windy) Texas winters.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:57 PM on November 8, 2007

I use Cetaphil cleanser for my face and, well, the girly parts. I always do this after shampooing and using body wash, mostly because it's super gentle and I'm paranoid about getting yeast/urinary infections.

That's not what this is about though, so moving forward... I use Cetaphil cleanser for those spots and "Olay Ribbons Body Wash plus Creme Ribbons with Almond Oil" for my body. It does keep moisture in there, but I've heard that's common with almond oil anyway.

After the shower, seriously like, before you even towel off all the way, start slathering on the lotion. I use different moisturizers for my body and my face - Oil of Olay (unscented but with SPF 15) and either Cetaphil, Aveeno, or Curel lotion, whichever's closest. These are all unscented products (except the body wash) because I don't like smelling like lotion all day, but as was suggested, perhaps you could go with perfume if you want.
posted by eldiem at 7:02 PM on November 8, 2007

Seconding: drink lots and lots of water, get a hot-water humidifier for your bedroom, take showers which are a little less hot and long.

Cetaphil cleanser is good. Generic drugstore versions are cheaper and work fine. Some seem to be unscented, which I prefer, but the Cetaphil cleanser itself has a scent.
Bar soap in general is supposed to be more drying than liquid soap.

I have found Alba Botanica original lotion (white bottle, purple stripe) to be a good all-purpose thinner lotion, unscented which I prefer. L'Occitane makes very nice shea butter based lotions with scents I like; these are thick, thick lotions and not what you would use on your face, though.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:21 PM on November 8, 2007

The real solution to this problem is to drink plenty of water. Everything else is just a band-aid.
posted by knave at 7:41 PM on November 8, 2007

Lush's Buffy is extremely moisturizing and can be used in the shower. I use it about once a week and I don't moisturize afterwards because there is no point - the Buffy leaves some cocoa butter or something like that on my skin, leaving it very soft.
posted by sutel at 8:02 PM on November 8, 2007

People keep saying "drink a lot of water", but I've also heard that stepping up your water intake doesn't do that much good. I drink a looooot of water, and my skin is still miserably dry all year long.

Jojoba oil has delivered me time and time again. I try to put a little on my face and other areas of delicate skin before I shower. It tends to protect my skin from the water, and wash off just enough so I'm not oily-looking, but not so much that I'm back to dry stretch face.

And I hate Cetaphil, too. Cetaphil was all grease, all the time.

I agree that whatever moisturizer you choose, you need to put it on immediately after showering/bathing. I also agree that you probably should avoid mosta those fragranced lotions. Especially anything that advertises itself as being full of "tingling botanicals", or whatever.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:26 PM on November 8, 2007

My husband has this problem in the winter, as well. The little bumps are probably folliculitis. I have him typically use exfoliating gloves in the shower to slough off the dry skin. Then a body wash like the Aveeno. Then after the shower, the Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturizing Lotion with Cooling Menthol and Natural Colloidal Oatmeal is very helpful.
posted by mamaquita at 8:27 PM on November 8, 2007

I'm typically so itchy in the winter, I darn near scratch my skin off, so I've used nearly every lotion and cream known to man. I've come to deeply, fanatically love Dove Intensive Moisturizing Lotion. It's not nearly as rich and oily creamy as a lot of the heavier creams I've used in the past, but it actually makes my skin feel softer, moister, and more normal. I sometimes supplement with heavier stuff (like the Body Shop body butters) but if I use the Dove every day, my skin, even with my folliculitis, is so soft that people have commented on it after brushing my against it.
posted by mostlymartha at 8:56 PM on November 8, 2007

Oddly, sometimes if you use lotion with AHA, in a low dose it can help with dry skin even though its a mild exfoliator. It would also probably help with the acne. Although you may need to then follow up with something else.

Also, I know one of my friends takes fish oil supplements and vitamin e supplements and she says it helps her really dry skin.
posted by whoaali at 9:05 PM on November 8, 2007

This is the Aveeno body wash I use, Daily Moisturizing, and it's pretty good. I was already starting to get the tight itchy feeling on my back and it's stopped since I started using this.

Last winter I got a big, cheap bottle of Jergens in the original scent (cherry almond!) and put it on instead of drying after I showered. It soaks in better that way, I find. I think the main thing is to be consistent and do it every day.

Incidentally you could add a few drops of the essential oil of your choice to any neutral-scented or unscented lotion or body wash. The Aveeno stuff I linked above is pretty mild-smelling and I'm sure most scents wouldn't create a huge clash with it. I understand wanting to get scent from moisturizer and body wash because I really dislike perfume.
posted by loiseau at 1:54 AM on November 9, 2007

Try a shower gel and a moisturizer from Sebamed's series for dry skin.
posted by iviken at 3:48 AM on November 9, 2007

I used to work in a nursing home, where people tend to have very dry skin, in high school. The doctors would give orders that residents with severely dry skin only use Eucerin. It worked really well.
posted by catseatcheese at 4:00 AM on November 9, 2007

1. Shower.
2. Lotion of your choice, immediately followed by
3. Thin, thin, layer of Vaseline.
posted by SoulOnIce at 5:12 AM on November 9, 2007

One that I use to combat dry winter skin is Zim's products - the lip balm even works on the cracked lips I endured for years until I found their products. Website for Zim's
posted by mightshould at 5:30 AM on November 9, 2007

Go to the health food store and get Aura Glow. It's a scented, (or not) oil based lotion, put it on after your shower.
I also avoid mineral oil based moisturizers, in favor of shea butter, coconut oil, natural oils.
Kiss my Face is a great line, the Honey and Calendula Ultra Moisturizer is great.
I also like pure coconut oil, at room temp it hardens, but melts on contact with skin, it really soaks in, better than the oil even.
posted by starfish at 6:39 AM on November 9, 2007

wash with dove soap (the bar kind).

moisturize with curel while your skin is still slightly damp. the few beads of water you leave on your skin will help buffer the lotion into your skin better, allowing you to use a thinner layer, which will let your skin breathe better.

do not use curel extra strength or you'll get those little bumps. curel normal will work, though. i don't know who the heck needs curel extra strength. i have the driest, nastiest scaliest skin a human can have, and curel extra strength is too much for even my ashy patches. seriously, curel regular is awesome as it is.
posted by twistofrhyme at 6:41 AM on November 9, 2007

You may want to look into using handmade soap so that your moisturizer won't have to make up for any dryness caused by chemicals in your bath products.
posted by zach braff's mixtape at 8:00 AM on November 9, 2007

I have the same problem, I have found that a daily otc claritin and GOLD BOND Ultimate™ Healing Skin Therapy Lotion. take care of dryness as well as itchyness, without smelling flowery
posted by meeshell at 8:13 AM on November 9, 2007

Definitely keep artificial fragrances out of your bath products and try to find soaps with natural oils in them, like shea butter. If your face gets really dry consider using a cream cleanser; I like Earth Science's cleanser but Weleda has some really nice (but a bit expensive) cleansers. Exfoliate with salt or sugar scrubs (you can make these yourself so that you can be sure they have good ingredients, and use essential oils so you can pick the fragrance). Really hot showers will dry your skin more and lead to itching and flaking. Moisturize right after your shower to trap any moisture from your shower, and hydrate your body on the inside by drinking lots of water. Low fat diets often lead to really dry skin; eat your fats, but good ones.

As for moisturizer I really love Jason's cocoa butter lotion; the smell is VERY mild (cocoa and vanilla), it moisturizes really well without leaving a greasy residue like some of the body butters I have tried. If your hands and feet get dry, right before bed slather on the moisturizer (Jasons!) and put on cotton gloves and socks and go to sleep. I rub a little Jason's into my cuticles before bed every night to keep them from getting all nasty in the winter.
posted by kenzi23 at 8:29 AM on November 9, 2007

Today I showered at less than scorching hot (which is my default) and moisturized with my normal stuff without drying off my skin first and it seems okay so far (just a slight bit of itchy, not as much), so many thanks for those suggestions. I'm going to try some different products and see what works. Thanks everybody!
posted by joannemerriam at 2:47 PM on November 9, 2007

Another thing often suggested here in threads about dry itchy skin: use a fresh towel every day or two. This seems to help some people.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:19 PM on November 9, 2007

Eucerin in the tub is what they used when my father was in the hospital for a long time. I used it during the winter, but it's expensive, so get the CVS or Walgreen's version. Same thing but about half price.
posted by la petite marie at 5:33 PM on November 9, 2007

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