Dry, itchy skin is a common problem for many Canadians; it can be caused by different skin conditions, such as eczema, which can be worsened as a result of cooler, winter weather.

As irritating as dry, itchy skin can be, there are certain home remedies as well as medical remedies that Vancouver family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, recommends trying.

The first thing to do in effort to find relief is to exfoliate. When you exfoliate, you clear away dead skin cells, and that allows moisturizer to better penetrate the skin. However, when exfoliating, it’s always important to remember to do it gently – and not every day. By exfoliating your skin too roughly or too much, you could actually cause damage to the skin and make symptoms like itching even worse. Exfoliators are widely available at most drug stores as well as at cosmetics counters in large department stores.

Once you have found an exfoliator (and have used it!), you’ll want to moisturize. Rather than choosing a light, gel or cream-based moisturizer, choose one that is thicker and oil-based. Thicker moisturizers tend to last longer, and therefore will have better results when it comes to soothing your skin. If you’re not a fan of moisturizers to do their textures or scents, you can also try using petroleum jelly. You’ll want to apply your moisturizer approximately 2 to 3 minutes after stepping out of the shower.

While on the subject of bathing, as comforting as long, hot showers and baths might be, they can also be quite damaging to the skin and strip it of its natural skin-protecting oils, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t stay in the shower/bath too long. If you suffer from extremely dry, itchy and flaky skin, dermatologists recommend showering or bathing for no longer than 10 minutes. Also be sure to only use mild, non-scented cleansers and soaps.

The sun can also be damaging to the skin and cause irritation. While it’s certainly less intense during winter months, it can still do harm – even when there’s snow. For added protection, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends using moisturizer with an added SPF of 15 or more. It’s also smart to always wear other protective gear like a hat, gloves and scarf.

Giving your diet a boost by adding more omega-3 fatty acids into yout diet can also be helpful in healing dry, itchy and irritated skin, as they help the skin create moisture-retaining barriers. Some examples of omega-3 rich foods include salmon, tuna and walnuts. You can find more about this and get other healthy eating tips from Dr. Ali Ghahary by clicking here.