During the winter, dry indoor heat and low humidity outdoors can combine to cause itchy, dry skin. Just putting lotion on your skin isn’t enough. In fact, depending on the ingredients of the lotion, it could actually be making your dry skin worse.

To take care of your family’s skin this winter, try some natural approaches that work inside and out. Here are some tips.

* Cut back on soap. Most of us lather up and scrub in a hot shower or bath without really thinking about it. But your skin does not need to be scrubbed with harsh soap daily. Reserve deodorant soap for key areas of your body, such as under your arms and on the bottom of your feet, and use a mild cleanser on the rest of your skin.

Soaps that are olive or vegetable oil-based are moisturizing and cleansing. You don’t necessarily have to use any soap on your body for much of the week. Just a light loofa or net sponge in water is often enough to keep winter skin healthy. Use the mild cleanser on your body once or twice a week.

* Eat healthy fats. You can’t expect your skin to be moist if it isn’t being nourished on the inside. Flax and fish oils are good for internal moisturizing. Eat nuts, too, and other foods high in “good” fats such as avocado. Dip your bread in olive oil or hummus and make salad dressing from safflower, almond, or olive oil for more healthy fats.

* Drink water, too. Sometimes we get so busy hydrating our outsides that we forget about the inside. Skin needs water to be plump and smooth. Be sure to get your 6 to 8 glasses a day, even in the winter when you aren’t necessarily thirsty.

* Humidify your home’s air. You can do this with a commercial humidifier, but there are other tips and tricks for increasing your home’s humidity. You can dry your laundry indoors on a line, for instance (this used to be called “drip-drying”). You can also leave a pot or kettle of hot water on your heater or woodstove (safety permitting), or even just open in the room. It will evaporate and increase the humidity even if there is no heat source near it.

* Apply sweet almond oil or coconut oil to your skin after a bath or shower. These natural oils are wonderful for the skin, and they are completely natural. Children and even babies can usually tolerate sweet almond or coconut oil on their skin.

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