November 7, 2023
5 ways to give the ER the cold shoulder this winter
- Family Medicine
- Urgent Care
November 28, 2016 | Family Medicine • Wellness Institute
Taking care of your skin is important year round, but is especially important during the winter, when skin tends to be dry due to temperatures and humidity levels dropping. If you struggle with dry skin during the winter, you are not alone. Results from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) show that at least 81 million Americans “experience dry, itchy or scaly skin during the winter months due to blasts of colder, dryer air, winter sun exposure and over-heated homes and offices.”
By following these simple suggestions, you can help avoid cracked lips, dry elbows and uncomfortable flaking skin this season.
A long, hot shower may sound heavenly after a long day out in the cold, but it can have a major adverse affect on your skin. Hot water dries the skin out by removing important natural oils from the skin’s surface. The Mayo Clinic recommends keeping your shower to ten minutes or less, bathing no more than once a day and keeping your water warm, not hot.
“As soon as you get out of the shower, moisture starts getting pulled out of the skin from contact with air,” says Annie Chiu, MD, a dermatologist in Manhattan Beach. Chiu recommends applying lotion within the first 5 minutes of being out of the shower. Applying moisturizing lotion right after you get out of the shower helps trap water in the cells on the surface of the skin.
Many soaps can dry your hands. While this may not be a huge issue during the spring and summer, it can contribute to dry cracked hands during the winter. Rebecca A. Kazin, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology and director of the Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center recommends using “ hand soap that contains moisturizing ingredients or an alcohol-free hand sanitizer.” In addition to choosing a moisturizing hand soap, wash your hands with warm, not hot, water. While hot water may feel nice on a cold day, it strips the skin of natural oils which prevent it from drying out.
Just because the temperature has dropped, doesn’t mean that the sun’s rays are any less dangerous. They release harmful UV rays year round and as a result, it is important to apply sunscreen even during the winter. Sunblock becomes even more important if you are participating in winter sports. The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that the “combination of higher altitude and UV rays reflected by the snow puts skiers and snowboarders at an increased risk of sun damage, and ultimately skin cancer.” Even if you aren’t planning on hitting the slopes, incorporating daily sunscreen can improve your skin’s overall health and help prevent damage and skin cancer.
A change in the weather may mean a change in lotion — especially for your face. Karyn Grossman, M.D says that many people need to change their skin care products during the winter. By checking what kind of moisturizer you are currently using, you can decide what type to buy for the winter: “If you’re using a gel moisturizer for your face you may need a lotion, and if you’re already using a lotion you may need to move onto a cream,” Grossman notes. The same applies to the rest of your body. If a regular lotion is not cutting it for the dry parts of your body such as your feet or elbows, it is time to switches to an oil based cream. Rebecca A. Kazin, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center has a simple suggestion for dealing with dry skin: “The more oil the better”.
While having the heat cranked up feels great on a cold day, it dries out your skin making itching and skin flaking worse and irritate your nasal passages and throat. During the winter, it is not common for a home to have a humidity level of around 10 percent, much lower than the ideal of 30 to 50 percent. Luckily, humidifiers are an easy and relatively inexpensive way to add moisture back into the air, helping keep your skin moisturized. In addition to help alleviate dry skin, having a humidifier in your house will improve indoor air quality and your breathing.
While there are many ways to keep your skin moisturized at home, there are times when you should seek medical attention. If, despite your best efforts to moisturize, your skin is still dry, you may have a skin disease or your dryness could be a symptom of another type of illness. A dermatologist will be able to assess your unique situation and help you get your skin healthy. Revere Health is Utah County’s leading dermatology practice and can help you understand your skin and help treat it. To learn more about Revere Health Dermatology and view their locations, please visit their website.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.