Keep your skin from getting the ‘winter blues’

Keep your skin from getting the ‘winter blues’

As the days get shorter, coats and gloves become a necessity. The chill of winter brings the desire for heavier clothing, hotter showers and higher settings on the thermostat. All these things help keep us warm, but they also are the primary reasons our skin often begins to dry, itch and flake.  However, winter skin can be prevented with a few simple changes to your skin routine.

While colder temperatures cause the humidity to drop outside, dry, indoor heat produced in most homes and offices also lowers the humidity inside. With lower humidity, the skin dries out faster. That’s why winter is a critical time to take extra precaution and care with our skin.

The skin is made up of several layers of cells. The epidermis, the top layer of the skin, along with the oil glands, produce lipids (fatty substances). These lipids help keep the skin from losing moisture and make it soft and supple. The moisture in the skin constantly evaporates, and washing the skin strips away these lipids, further drying it. However, in humid conditions, the skin can replenish itself by soaking up moisture from the air. When the humidity drops, as it does in many places in the winter, your skin loses another opportunity to moisturize itself.

Dry skin is one of the most common problems with which people struggle during the winter months. Without proper care, dry skin can crack and bleed, reducing the skin’s ability to protect the body and increasing the risk of infection. The best way to keep the skin healthy is to replenish its moisture.

To protect skin from the elements, Marshall Dermatology recommends

  • Avoiding long, hot baths which can strip away natural oils and dry the skin. Instead, opt for tepid showers and consider using a moisturizing body wash.
  • Applying moisturizers to the skin within three minutes of stepping out of the shower can help trap water in the upper layers of the skin and decrease dryness and itching.
  • When choosing a moisturizer, check product labels and look for lotions and creams that contain any of the following ingredients: petrolatum, mineral oil, linoleic acid, ceramides, dimethicone or glycerin.

Also, for skin areas easiest to dry out (arms, legs and face) a liquid non-soap cleanser instead of bar soap or liquid soap can be a helpful substitution. This can prevent a loss of important skin oils and therefore decrease dryness.

Many people find that what works for them in the summer, doesn’t work as well for them in the winter.  It’s important to pay attention to how your skin looks and feels and make adjustments to your skin care routine as necessary.

One of the most important things to remember during the winter months is to continue wearing sunscreen. Snow can reflect more than 80 percent of the sun’s damaging ultraviolet radiation, so it’s important to always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen (one that protects against UVA and UVB rays) with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, especially on exposed body parts such as the face, hands and tops of the ears. Also, apply a lip balm with an SPF of 15 to help prevent chapped lips.  Reapply both sunscreen and lip balm every two hours for maximum benefit.

The winter months do not have to wreak havoc on your skin. Remember to place a greater emphasis on moisturizing and to visit your dermatologist who can devise a personal skin care regimen that will help combat many of the challenges associated with winter skin.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Marshall Dermatology at 304-529-0900.

Source:  American Academy of Dermatology

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Charles Yarbrough, MD

Dr. Yarbrough is a board-certified dermatologist with Marshall Dermatology, a department of Marshall Health, and professor and chair of the dermatology department at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Practicing for more than 40 years, he specializes in all forms of skin cancer, acne, dermatitis, psoriasis, laser treatments, general dermatology.

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