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Winter Skin Care Tips

When winter arrives, it comes with dry scaly itchy skin. Eczema (atopic dermatitis), psoriasis, and dry skin (xerosis) are worse in the winter when the humidity is low. Cold air has less moisture in it than warm air, and heavier clothing and indoor heating (including wood stoves) make dry skin worse. The result is dry, irritated, itchy skin – a frequent complaint that brings patients to our office in the winter.

Remember, that sun exposure is something that needs attention even in the winter. Outdoor activities, such as skiing and snowboarding, require proper attention to the care of the skin, both on the slopes and off. Sun exposure during winter activities is both direct (from the rays of the sun on your skin) and indirect (from sun reflected onto your skin by the ice and snow on the slopes).

Also be careful not to expose yourself to the cold winter elements without proper clothing. Avoid frostbite and frostnip with scarves, hats, and mittens.

Use these tips for better winter skin:

  • Minimize bathing or showering to 10 minutes, with lukewarm (tepid) water (NOT hot water).
  • Use a mild soap such as Dove®, Vanicream, or Oil of Olay®.  Avoid antibacterial, deodorant, and perfumed designer soaps.
  • After washing your hands, apply a moisturizing hand cream to lock in moisture. Use body moisturizers after bathing. A wonderful moisturizer for hands and the body is TriXera, from Avene. Many excellent facial moisturizers are available, with or without sun-protection.
  • Consider using a humidifier to counteract the dryness of winter air.
  • Do not use the fabric softener sheets, even fragrance-free sheets, in the dryer as the chemicals are not rinsed out and can lead to irritation. Liquid fabric softener is fine, because it washes out with the rinse cycle of the washer, leaving clothes static-free and soft, with no harmful residue left on the clothes to irritate the skin.
  • Remember to use a lip balm (preferably with an SPF of 15+) daily to prevent chapping (cheilitis). Lips are often overlooked, and once they are chapped and cracked, they are prone to infection and irritation. There are several commercially available products, with or without flavor. The non-flavored lip balms are preferred.
  • Remember to use your sunblock with an SPF of 30 and titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, YEAR ROUND. The sun IS out in the winter, and its rays are magnified by the ice, sleet, rain or snow. High-altitude hiking, mountain-climbing, skiing, or snowboarding cause increased damage to our skin.