Skin takes a beating when the temperatures drop. Icy cold wind, dry indoor heat and hot, steamy showers can leave the skin on your face, hands and body irritated and flaky.
The most common winter skin complaint G. Anthony Slagel, D.O., a dermatologist at Piedmont Physician Group, hears from his patients is dry skin, or xerosis. When the dryness becomes severe, it can spread into patches called eczema or dermatitis. To combat dry skin and its potential side effects, try these 10 tips.
The most effective time to use face and body lotion is right after a shower or bath when your skin is damp. This locks in much-needed moisture.
Dr. Slagel recommends applying lotion twice daily or as often as needed.
Resist the urge to scratch at itchy dry skin - eczema patches can become cracked and infected.
“We see this a lot in children because they’re scratching their skin and they’re exposed to germs in school or daycare,” says Dr. Slagel.
You may notice dry skin occurs mainly on your hands and face, and this is because the hands and face are exposed to the environment the most. Many things can wreak havoc on your skin, including soap, shampoo, newspaper and photocopy ink, cleaning agents and hand sanitizers.
Luckily, you don’t have to avoid washing your hands, making copies at the office or doing the dishes. Just keep a tube of moisturizer in your purse or pocket and use it immediately after these activities.
You still need sunscreen when it’s cold outside. While UV rays are not as strong as they are during the summer months, you still need SPF for its skin protection and anti-aging benefits. Dr. Slagel recommends using a minimum of SPF 30 on all exposed skin every day.
“Some good ingredients you want to look for in moisturizers are ceramides, mineral oil and colloidal oatmeal,” he recommends. “For extremely dry skin, look for lactic acid or urea.”
“In the winter months, we usually ease off chemical exfoliation,” explains Dr. Slagel.
Instead, use a loofah or body sponge in the shower to gently slough off dry skin.
A hot shower or bath may feel good when you’re freezing, but it won’t do your skin any favors.
“Thermal heat in hot water actually has the same drying effect as any source of heat,” explains Dr. Slagel. “Stick with lukewarm baths and showers.”
Most lip products are wax-based, so they coat and protect your lips, but do little to heal and moisturize them.
Look for an oil-based product instead, such as Aquaphor Healing Ointment, suggests Dr. Slagel.
Whether you have a central humidifier installed in your home’s heating and cooling system or choose a plug-in model for your bedroom, this machine can replace much-needed moisture in the air.
“Any source of residential heating will basically eliminate moisture in your home,” he says. “During the winter months, run your humidifier often.”
Just keep an eye on the filter – it must be cleaned every few days and changed according to manufacturer instructions to prevent mold growth.
Note: If you suffer from allergies, talk to your doctor before using a humidifier.
“If you have a rash that hasn’t responded to one to two weeks of skin care with moisturizers and over-the-counter hydrocortisone, you should probably have it evaluated,” says Dr. Slagel.
Your dermatologist can prescribe prescription-strength ointments or creams to get your skin issues under control.
To find a physician near you, visit Piedmont Physicians Group.