Surviving Winter Skin

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Tips and Advice from Elizabeth Swenor, DO & Cheryl Jones, PAC

Wintertime inconveniences don’t end with snow shoveling and longer drives to school and work.  For many of us, these months are really tough on our skin.  If you’ve noticed more drying, flaking and cracking than usual (not to mention static on your clothes and hair), you’re not alone.  With temperatures regularly dipping below zero, and no end in sight, we turned to our in-house experts, Dr. Elizabeth Swenor and Cheryl Jones, for some easy to follow advice on surviving the rest of winter.  Here’s what they had to say.

From Elizabeth Swenor, DO:

As the humidity level plunges in the winter months, the skin loses its moisture resulting in dry, flaky, itchy and sometimes cracking skin. This is called “xerosis cutis,” derived from the Greeks words “dry skin.”

Other causes of xerosis cutis are bathing and washing too frequently, scrubbing the skin too hard, and bathing in hot water. Steamy long showers might feel great, but they will further dry out your skin. So limit bathing time to less than 5 minutes.  Keep the temperature warm and comfortable, with a quick cool rinse.  Always use a mild and gentle soap. Harsh bar soaps, like antibacterial soaps and alcohol-based hand sanitizers, will dry and irritate your skin.

Remember to use something soft like your hands or washcloth to rub the skin and avoid scrubbing with stiff, coarse sponges or loofahs.

The comforts inside of your home may be warm, but the air is still winter dry! “Water” your skin while you are sleeping with a humidifier, or add a humidifier to the rooms where you spend the most time.  To help the skin hold onto moisture, set your room humidifiers at 45-55% humidity, and room temperatures around 68 degrees.

Aging skin also struggles to hold onto moisture as it thins and loses its elasticity. Allure Medical Spa suggests you use a moisturizing cream that has ingredients with humectants, such as alpha-hydroxy acids, lactic acid, glycerine, or sorbitol, which will attract and retain moisture. Also, non-pore clogging oils can be used to moisturize such as avocado, primrose, almond, coconut, and argan oils. These are good for all ages, but should be used with caution if you have oily skin prone to acne breakouts.

Wear comfortable, non-irritating clothing, keep your hands covered when outdoors and avoid prolonged wearing of wet and cold clothing. At bedtime, you can slather your feet and hands with a rich healing ointment, such as zinc oxide, and wear white cotton gloves and socks. It may not be fashionable, but it works and helps to prevent those tender cracks that often occur on your fingertips and heels!

If your skin is persistently dry, cracked, and irritated you may have an underlying medical skin condition such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, or eczema.  These conditions require a physician supervised targeted treatment plan.

From Cheryl Jones, PAC:

Did you know the #1 cause of itchy skin in the US is dry skin?

In the winter, dry, itchy skin becomes more of a problem because of the dry air.  We’re all running our furnaces to stay warm, and unfortunately that air sucks moisture out of our skin.

Luckily, there are things we can do to combat this effect.  Here are the tips I share when people ask me how to survive itchy, “winter” skin:

  • Moisturizers penetrate best when applied to slightly damp skin, so apply your moisturizer right after your shower or bath
  • Look for moisturizers with ceramides, which are fatty compounds very similar to our natural oils, and can be found in many of the newer products
  • Shea butter, jojoba oils, and coconut oils are natural product alternatives to over the counter lotions and are very effective

Of course, some very itchy skin may need prescription intervention with topical corticosteroid creams or ointments.

If you think your itchy winter skin may be something more serious, call Allure Medical Spa at 800-577-2570 for a FREE consultation.