Caring for your winter skin

News page imageWritten by Kylie Hughes for Palmetto Skin and Laser Center and published in the Rock Hill Herald, South Carolina on 31 January, 2010. Click here to see it in its original format: Rock Hill Daily Winter Skin Care Article

Dry, tight, itchy, irritated skin.  Does that sound familiar?  Well, you’re not alone—winter is one of the most testing times of year for our body’s largest organ.  The good news is that you don’t have to live with skin that’s as nasty as the weather.  Here’s how to keep your winter skin in top condition.

“Cold weather outside, coupled with warm, dry air inside can cause skin to become dry and irritated,” explains Timothy Woodall, MD, a dermatologist at the Palmetto Skin & Laser Center and president of the South Carolina Dermatology Society. “Indoor heating lowers the moisture level in the air which causes our skin to dry out.”

“The skin on the face, hands, and feet are especially vulnerable to winter dryness,” adds Richard White, MD, also a board-certified dermatologist at the Palmetto Skin & Laser Center located in Rock Hill and former president of the Charlotte Dermatology Society. “Mildly dry skin will feel tight and uncomfortable. At its worse, the skin can flake and crack, and eczema can develop.”

Fortunately, there are ways to boost your skin care routine so that your winter skin stays soft and healthy.

1. Visit a dermatologist

A dermatologist will analyze your skin and advise you about skin care products that match your specific skin type.  Given that Americans spend a total of $15 billion every year on skin care, a dermatology consultation can be a wise investment.  “We see people who’ve spent literally thousands of dollars on creams and lotions trying to fix their own skin complaints,” explains Dr. Woodall. “But inexpensive products can be just as effective, if not more effective, than costly ones.”

2. Use a humidifier

A humidifier works by replacing moisture in the air. Two or three portable units positioned around your home can prevent skin from becoming dry.

3. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize

Did we mention you should moisturize? “Choose your moisturizer carefully,” adds Dr. Woodall. “The more oil a moisturizer contains the more effectively it protects against moisture loss.” Moisturizers that come in ointment form usually contain 80 percent oil combined with 20 percent water. This forms a protective layer on the skin and makes it more nourishing than creams and lotions.  Avoid using ointments, however, on areas of the body that tend to become hot and sweaty.

4. Apply sunscreen

Yes, you read that correctly.  Dr. White recommends you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher all year round.  Applied thickly to the face, hands, and other exposed areas, it acts as a protective barrier against the elements.  For winter use, look for a sunscreen that combines oily, moisturizing cream with high SPF protection.

5. Layer your clothes

One of the most common triggers of itching is sweating and overheating. Wearing layers allows you to remove clothing as you warm up.  Dr. White suggests loose-fitting cotton undergarments and gloves to protect your hands outdoors. Wet clothes and shoes should be removed promptly to prevent irritation.

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