By: Sarah Beggs, MD, Dermatologist at Jefferson Health – New Jersey
With moderating temperatures on the horizon, cold air is still in place. The cold, dry weather can wreak havoc on your skin if you’re not careful. Moisture is essential for skin to protect us well; however, as the moisture leaves the air, it also leaves the skin, making it itchy and vulnerable to irritation.
What Can Make It Worse?
This time of year, certain actions, such as taking extra hot showers to warm up, can strip our bodies of helpful, naturally produced oils. Some people, such as those with a history of eczema or genetic predisposition to skin problems, have to work especially hard to maintain moisture and protect their skin, as they are more prone to suffering dryness. Environment can also play a role; people who live in areas that have “hard water” – or water with a high concentration of calcium and magnesium – are also more likely to develop dry and irritated skin year-round.
What You Can Do
Luckily, with just a few simple tips, it’s easier than you think to keep your skin in optimal condition throughout the winter season. Try the following:
- Shower with lukewarm water for less than 10 minutes, once a day or every other day. Overly hot water, as soothing as it may feel, strips your skin of its natural oils, leaving it vulnerable
- Wash with an unscented soap or a gentle cleanser using only your hand. Avoid using a washcloth or loofa unless you see visible dirt. Pat yourself dry after your shower, rather than rubbing
- Moisturize immediately after your shower with an unscented and hypoallergenic cream or ointment, such as: Vanicream Moisturizing Cream, Vaseline® Petroleum Jelly, Aquaphor®, CeraVe® Healing Ointment, etc. These are gentle on the skin, whereas lotions tend to be alcohol-based and can cause a burning sensation.
- Moisturize multiple times a day – especially your hands since they are constantly being washed and exposed to the elements.
- Bundle up when you go outside! Avoid wearing rough fabrics, such as wool, which can bother your skin.
- Protect your skin from harsh chemicals when cleaning (i.e., wear rubber gloves when washing dishes).
- Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean the UV rays aren’t still out. If you’re going to be outdoors for a prolonged period of time, be sure to apply sunscreen.
Managing Chronic Complications
If you have eczema (atopic dermatitis) or acne, you may flare up during the change in seasons for several reasons. The cold strips away natural barriers in the skin, allowing bacteria to grow. Also, less exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun means fewer anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits.
It’s important to be consistent with gentle skin care and stay on track with any medication you have previously been prescribed for your condition. However, with acne specifically, you may have to cut back on your treatment regimen, due to how much it dries out the skin. You should talk to a dermatologist before making any drastic changes.
Remember, when it comes to skin care, consistency is key. Don’t fall behind. Instead, incorporate proper moisturizing to your daily hygiene regimen so you do not need to catch up later.
If you feel like you can no longer manage your skin health on your own with over-the-counter moisturizers, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
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