Freezing weather and stuffy central heating leaves our skin much drier in the winter, exacerbating conditions such as eczema, dandruff and dry eyes.
But which products promising to tackle dryness, are worth buying? We asked experts to assess a selection, and we then rated them.
All these treatments are available in High Street pharmacies or online.
Philip Kingsley Flaky/Itchy Scalp Toner, 250ml, £20.50
9/10: The fact that the treatment is not washed off means it’s more effective than a dandruff shampoo
CLAIM: This is said to tackle dandruff and provide long-lasting relief from irritation and dryness. Massage into the scalp after washing and leave it in.
VERDICT: ‘Around half of dandruff cases are caused by seborrhoeic dermatitis, a form of eczema linked to an overgrowth of yeast,’ says Dr Anton Alexandroff, a consultant dermatologist at BMI The Manor Hospital in Bedford.
The other half are caused by psoriasis.
‘This product’s formula is well-researched and the active ingredients — piroctone olamine and benzalkonium chloride — have been proven to help treat dandruff caused by fungal overgrowth.
‘The fact that the treatment is not washed off means the ingredients have longer contact with the scalp, so it’s more effective than a dandruff shampoo.’ 9/10
Prevasore Everyday Lip Therapy, 5g, £6.95
5/10: Used daily, the balm may prevent cold sores which can be triggered by chapped lips
CLAIM: A combination of ‘protective ingredients’ increase moisture in the skin, helping to maintain its natural barrier function and encouraging healing when lips are chapped.
Used daily, the balm may prevent cold sores, which, the maker says, can be triggered by chapped lips.
VERDICT: ‘The paraffin and glycerol in this balm are good moisturisers,’ says Dr Alexandroff.
‘But it’s expensive. There are cheaper alternatives that would be just as effective — such as Vaseline (£1.95 for 20g, boots.com) — or you can use any rich moisturiser on your lips. I’ve not seen evidence that moisturising lips prevents cold sores.’ 5/10
Salcura Bioskin DermaSpray, 100ml, £16.99
3/10: This product contains essential oils, which can cause more irritation
CLAIM: Suitable for dry skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis, this spray contains natural oils including peppermint (thought to reduce redness and itching) and olive oil (to nourish and restore rough skin). Apply at least three times a day to the affected area until symptoms subside.
VERDICT: ‘This contains urea and glycerin, which are known to help skin retain moisture and reduce flakiness,’ says Dr Alexandroff.
‘However, many of the other ingredients are essential oils, which can cause irritation, particularly tea tree, lavender, peppermint and citrus oils. Dry or sore skin is at higher risk of irritation, so I recommend patients use products without potential allergens such as these.
‘I also recommend using a cream rather than a spray because they have richer formulations and are more hydrating.’ 3/10
Solgar Collagen Hyaluronic Acid Complex, 30 tablets, £34.75
7/10: Dermatologists are sceptical about skin supplements, but this product seems good
CLAIM: The body’s ability to produce hyaluronic acid and collagen declines with age, which can lead to skin dryness, according to the manufacturer. These once-daily pills supply these compounds along with vitamin C, to keep skin soft, supple and less wrinkled.
VERDICT: ‘In general, dermatologists are sceptical about skin supplements, but this product does appear to stand apart with some good research behind its claims,’ says Dr Alexandroff.
‘In two small studies, one of which was independent, taking this pill for three months was found to significantly improve skin dryness and wrinkles. Some of the evaluations were done by the participants themselves, so it may have been a placebo effect. But if you’re worried about dryness, it’s worth trying this.’ 7/10
Sanex Zero% Dry Skin Shower Gel, 250ml, £2.29
2/10: This contains sodium laureth sulfate, a cheap foaming agent and skin irritant
CLAIM: This contains fewer chemicals and is made with natural moisturisers.
VERDICT: ‘Despite the skin-friendly claims, this contains sodium laureth sulfate, a cheap foaming agent and common skin irritant,’ says Dr Alexandroff.
‘I would instead recommend washing with Hydromol Ointment (£7.29 for 500g, helloskinshop.co.uk), an all-purpose emollient [a cream that traps moisture in the skin] that doubles as soap.’ 2/10
Replens MD Vaginal Moisturiser, six prefilled applicators, £10.99
10/10: This product scores top marks by medical experts who recommend it
CLAIM: Apparently clinically proven, this provides moisture and relief from dryness for up to three days per application. Glycerin, mineral oil and a ‘bioadhesive’ — a form of glue that allows the cream to attach to cells — boost the body’s natural lubrication, which can decline with age.
VERDICT: ‘This contains polycarbophil, which has been studied in clinical trials for more than 20 years and has a good track record for relieving vaginal dryness without causing irritation,’ says Tania Adib, a gynaecologist at Queen’s Hospital in Romford.
‘The single-use applicator makes it more hygienic, helping to avoid infection.’ 10/10
O’Keeffe’s Working Hands, 96g, £6.37
8/10: This product contains a preservative that releases formaldehyde to kill bacteria
CLAIM: With a high content of glycerin, this ‘concentrated’ cream is said to work by pulling water into the skin rather than repelling it, and by creating a protective layer on the skin’s surface to prevent moisture loss.
VERDICT: ‘I would rate this product highly as it contains effective moisturising agents,’ says Dr Alexandroff. ‘In particular, dimethicone, a silicon-based chemical, can improve the skin’s texture and moisture levels.
‘My only note of caution would be to avoid this if you have a known allergy to formaldehyde, as this product contains a preservative that releases formaldehyde to kill bacteria. Although the levels are tiny and don’t pose any threat to overall health, they can cause skin reactions.’ 8/10
Flexitol Heel Balm, 56g, £4.99
9/10: Many patients love this product, though it does contain a fragrance, so test it first
CLAIM: This formula contains 25 per cent urea, which is said to increase the skin’s natural renewal process, speeding up exfoliation and breaking down hardened, callous skin to reduce heel cracks. Apply twice daily.
VERDICT: ‘The skin on the heels cracks more than skin in other areas possibly because it’s thicker and less elastic. This is exacerbated by the pressure of having to carry the whole weight of the body,’ says Dr Alexandroff.
‘The high concentration of urea makes this effective in combating flaky skin. The inclusion of glycolic acid helps to exfoliate by removing dead skin cells. Many of my patients love this product, though it does contain a fragrance, so test it first.’ 9/10
The Breath Company Dry Mouth Oral Rinse, 500ml, £14
4/10: This is not much better than using a cheaper mouthwash, experts reveal
CLAIM: This will moisturise the mouth with soothing natural enzymes and a plant-derived chemical that’s been found to encourage saliva production. Rinse with a capful, twice daily.
VERDICT: This contains two antibacterials that are produced naturally in human saliva: lysozyme and amylase. These are helpful in relieving dry mouth syndrome, where the mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, making swallowing difficult, says Dr Uchenna Okoye, a dentist at London Smiling.
‘However, they won’t stay in your mouth for long with a rinse, so it’s only a temporary effect and not much better than using a cheaper mouthwash or simply taking frequent sips of water.
‘I often recommend OraCoat XyliMelts — little tabs that contain the natural sweetener xylitol, which helps stimulate saliva (£13 for 40, amazon.co.uk).’ 4/10
Hycosan Dual Lubricating Eye Drops, 7.5ml, £14.99
9/10: These drops create a protective barrier to reduce tear evaporation
CLAIM: These ‘combat dry eye at its root cause’. Dry eye disease is when the eyes don’t make enough tears, or tears evaporate too quickly, leaving eyes dry and uncomfortable. Containing sodium hyaluronate and ectoin, the drops create a protective barrier to reduce tear evaporation. Use three times a day.
Verdict: Sodium hyaluronate is a good eye moisturiser, while ectoin helps stabilise the watery layer of the eye known as the tear film to stop eyes drying out, says Dr Maryam Zamani, an ophthalmologist at the Cadogan Clinic.
‘Together, they can improve lubrication and should strengthen the eye’s natural protective barrier — reducing the chance of allergens getting into the eye and causing irritation.’ 9/10
Optase Tea Tree Oil Lid Wipes, 20 pack, £9.90
2/10: This uses tea tree oil, which can cause allergic skin reactions and eye irritation
CLAIM: The tea tree oil and hyaluronic acid in these help manage blepharitis, a common condition that causes inflammation of the rims of the eyelids. They also have a textured surface to remove ‘eye dandruff’, a build-up of dead skin that forms at the base of eyelashes.
VERDICT: ‘Tea tree oil has been shown in some studies to help reduce numbers of eyelash mites, which can trigger blepharitis,’ says Dr Zamani. ‘However, the oil can cause allergic skin reactions and eye irritation, so I would be very cautious about using these.
‘I often recommend using a warm eye compress for 15 minutes a day.
‘This softens the natural oils in the eyelid so they flow into the eye and lubricate it, and helps break down and clear dead skin cells that may be irritating the eyelids.’ 2/10