Super Dry Winter Skin Got You Itching? You Need a Healing Salve or Balm

When the lower temperatures of winter hit, humidity levels drop. You may already be reaching for a humidifier to keep your home comfy  —and your sinuses happy — but if you’re heading out into the season’s cold, arid climate, your skin may need a little extra help.

Sure, you should still be using a basic moisturizer, but for more intense treatment, turn to thicker, creamier balms and salves. They’re particularly helpful if you’re in the great outdoors for extended periods of time, enjoying winter sports, or if you’re lucky enough to have a job that keeps you there. These products offer a more intense level of moisturizing action, and some also offer healing, warming effects that can help with everything from cracked skin to sore muscles. 

Why and When to Use a Salve or Balm

  • Balms are so thick they help protect skin from getting dry in the first place. Before heading out of doors, spend some time layering on a moisturizing balm before putting on gloves. 
  • If the damage is already done, a balm’s intense properties will penetrate the epidermis to replenish and trap moisture there. 
  • Don’t forget your feet! Rub on before putting on socks to ward off dry skin and calluses or reward yourself with a little foot massage after a long day in the elements. 
  • Due to their thick consistency, balms and salves are often packed in tins (or at least small tubes), which are perfect for keeping in a coat pocket for intense moisturizing anytime, anywhere. 
  • They are a lifesaver if you’re a manual or industrial laborer or if your hands are exposed to harsh elements in the course of a day. 
  • More pungent additives are added to some products that still moisturize, but are best known for their muscle-soothing (and sinus-clearing) properties, so some salves can do double duty as both a moisturizer and analgesic.

Best Balms and Salves to Save Your Dry Skin

Jao Brand Coiffette – $32
best salves skin coifette

Jao calls its product a “bomade” as opposed to a pomade, because it’s not only great for deeply moisturizing skin, it’s also an excellent hair care product. Try it on your beard to keep facial fur soft and conditioned. Coiffette incorporates a fragrant blend of frankincense, patchouli, and fir oils for a deep, rich scent.

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Captain Blankenship Avocado & Peppermint Balm – $24
best salves skin captain blankenship

Obey Captain’s orders! This balm incorporates naturally lush organic avocado oil, shea butter, calendula extract, cocoa butter, rosehip seed oil, and wild harvested myrrh essential oil to soften and soothe dry skin and cuticles. Feels great and smells good, too! 

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L’Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Body Cream – $24
best salves skin loccitane ultra rich body cream

Made with 25 percent shea butter, L’Occitane’s formula can aid with moisturizing for up to 72 hours. It’s thick and rich, maintaining the skin’s natural hydrolipidic film, a protective layer that defends the skin against bacteria while maintaining suppleness and moisture. The cream applies effortlessly without any greasy film. 

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Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve – $16
best salves skin kiehl s

Kiehl’s incorporates avocado, sesame, and eucalyptus oils into an intense salve. The thick, rich formula soothes, conditions and moisturizes dry hands by drawing and absorbing water from the air to form a “glove-like” protective barrier against moisture loss, as well as protecting and repairing skin. 

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Baxter of California Hydro Salve Hand Cream – $16
best salves skin baxter of california hydro salve 1

Baxter’s heavy duty product comes in an easy to use and carry tube. It includes aloe, shea butter, and avocado oil, and, at 3.4 ounces, is just the right size to be TSA-friendly. Throw this in your bag for your next ski weekend. 

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Burt’s Bees Hand Salve – $9
best salves skin burts bees

Since 1984 Burt (yes, there is actually a bearded guy named Burt Shavitz) and his friend Roxanne have been making products from the leftover wax from, you guessed it, Burt’s bees. Starting with an all-natural lip balm, the product line has evolved and now offers this healing hand salve. Botanical oils, herbs, and beeswax are all combined for nature’s hydration, then poured into an easily portable tin for pocket, purse, or tool belt.

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C.O. Bigelow Chemist No. 012 Rose Salve Tin – $6
best salves skin c o  bigelow

Bigelow’s Rose Salve Tin packs a lot of healing power into a little package. It’s perfect to apply to lips for moisturizing and protection and is also great for spot treatments of dry patches on knuckles, elbows, and other joints. The rose extract not only smells great, but it also helps ease irritation and conditions the skin.

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Dr. Bronner’s Arnica Menthol Magic Balm – $11
best salves skin dr  bronner

Moving into balms that go way beyond moisturizing, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Balm helps cool and soothe sore muscles and achy joints with a potent blend of arnica, camphor, and menthol oils. Breathe deep after applying: It’s pungent enough to clear your sinuses. The organic beeswax base incorporates avocado, coconut, olive, jojoba, and hemp oils, nourishing and moisturizing skin with no synthetic ingredients.

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Tiger Balm Ultra Strength – $12
best salves skin tiger balm ultra strength

A little glass jar of pain relief, Tiger Balm is not only great for rubbing into sore joints, with a little massage technique, it even alleviates headaches. Originally developed in China in the 1870s, the product has become a go-to for athletes around the world. It gets its heady smell from healthy doses of Camphor and Menthol, in a base of cajuput cassia, clove, and dementholised mint oils.  

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Not so dried out you need a soothing salve to save your skin? Just a little lotion, maybe? Check out all the best body lotions for men here.

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