It’s that time of year again: time for the cold, dry Michigan air to take a toll on your skin. When the humidity drops, skin can become dry, red, itchy, flaky, and even crack and bleed in severe cases. There are several ways you can prevent or lessen the effects of the seasonal change listed here.
1. Baths and showers are not necessarily your friend. Long, hot baths and showers can actually make things worse. Some useful tips to help you are:
• Use warm, not hot water.
• Limit baths or showers to 5-10 minutes. Longer times can cause moisture to evaporate from your skin from your pores being opened from steam and warm water.
• Use a gentle cleanser, preferably a liquid sensitive skin body wash. Bar soaps are more drying to the skin.
• Pat off gently with a towel when you get out of the shower or bath. Overly aggressive toweling can irritate skin.
• Slather on a moisturizer as soon as you pat off with your towel.
2. Moisturizers can be confusing, but there are some general rules of thumb:
• Thicker is better.
• Greasy ointments and thick creams are more moisturizing than lotions.
• Ingredients to look for on the label include: petrolatum, mineral oil, glycerin, dimethicone, and hyaluronic acid. These all help to increase and lock in moisturizer in the skin.
• Some creams contain an acidic ingredient that can help smooth out flaking skin. Some examples would include salicylic acid, lactic acid, and urea.
3. Avoid irritating substances when skin is dry.
• Fragrances are irritating to dry skin. Unscented products are a better option.
• Other products that can be irritating include anti-aging and acne medications.
4. Hands need extra TLC
• Gloves (cotton or nitrile) worn at bedtime with a thick ointment or cream applied to the skin just before the gloves are put on can be very helpful.
• Make sure you moisturize after every hand washing. Repeated hand washing chaps the skin, causes dryness and painful skin cracking.
• Wear gloves outside when weather is cold.
5. Humidify indoor air
• Check your furnace to see if it has a humidifier. If it does, make sure it’s working!
• A table top plug in humidifier can be used in your bedroom.
• If you have heat vents on the floor, a bowl of tap water placed on the vent will also help add extra moisture to the air.
6. Wear non-irritating fabrics and use the right laundry detergents.
• Wool sweaters are extremely irritating to dry skin. Wear cotton or silk underneath to help.
• Hypoallergenic laundry detergents are least irritating.
• Dryer sheets can leave abrasive particles trapped in clothing fibers that rub and aggravate dry skin. Use a liquid fabric softener instead.
7. Direct heat sources are a no no.
• Sitting in front of the fireplace or a space heater will make your skin much drier.
• Wrap up in a blanket instead.
Even with all of these measures, skin may continue to misbehave. If you are not experiencing relief, you may need a prescription ointment or cream to help. Sometimes dry skin can also be a sign of an underlying medical problem, so don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist for an evaluation if you can’t control your symptoms or improve the condition of your skin. At Allure Dermatology, we have same day or next day appointment options with a board-certified dermatologist available at our Shelby Township, Livonia, and Southgate locations.
Tina Kinsley, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist and works with Allure Dermatology patients of all ages – from infancy through adulthood. She treats a variety of conditions from acne to rashes to skin cancers. Dr. Kinsley accepts new patients same day whenever possible at our Livonia and Southgate locations.