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Doc Talk Doc Talk: Prevent scaly, problem winter skin with moisturizer

  • Published Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, at 11:03 p.m.

The winter months can be tough on your skin. From eczema to dryness, conditions can make it increasingly difficult to keep your skin soft, smooth and youthful looking this time of year. The skin’s lipid or oil layer is stripped away by cold weather, low humidity, wind, and dry air from furnaces. Many winter skin problems are further exacerbated by long hot showers, harsh cleansers and spending time in front of the nice warm fireplace. Some people escape winter skin woes by going south for the winter, but for those of us enduring the cold, dry weather of central Kansas, there are steps we can take to protect our skin.

Dry skin

No matter what your age, dry skin can creep up on you during the winter. As we get older, the natural moisture barrier in our skin is depleted, making moisturizing more important.

Dry skin can get extremely itchy and inflamed, and the resultant scratching can damage skin and lead to infection. To avoid this, take warm (not hot) showers or baths as hot water drives moisture out of the skin. Use a nice thick cream or ointment immediately after showers, baths and hand washing. To help keep you moisturized on the go, carry a travel-size moisturizer in a purse, backpack or pocket.

In the height of cold and flu season, efforts to get rid of germs through washing can really dry out your hands. Using a moisturizing hand sanitizer such as Goldbond Ultimate Hand Sanitizer Moisturizer can help rid germs while nourishing the hands. Lastly, don’t forget a light moisturizing sunscreen for your face. SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense SPF30 can hydrate and provide protection from those ever-present ultraviolet rays that age your skin. It’s available from dermatologists, day spas and medical spas or www.skinceuticals.com.

Dry, chapped lips

Like the rest of the skin, lips need protection, too. Lips are often forgotten in the wintertime, leaving them dry, cracked and painful. Licking lips only provides temporary relief and eventually makes the problem worse. The easiest solution is to keep a moisturizing lip balm with at least SPF 15 on hand and reapply often. Vanicream lip balm works great. But if you have darker skin the light tint it leaves may be undesirable. If your lips are already dry and cracked, try Dr. Dan’s Cortibalm. It contains hydrocortisone, which helps sooth and heal the lips.

Eczema

Eczema is common year-round, but tends to peak in cold, dry weather. Normally, the skin serves as a protective barrier against the elements and creates a lipid (oil) layer that hydrates. However, eczema-prone skin has a defective barrier function, so it does not provide itself with adequate moisture. Eczema-prone skin needs moisturization year round and it is even more important during the winter. Along with using a good cream, such as Cetaphil Vanicream skin cream, or an ointment like Aquaphor or petroleum jelly, a prescription anti-inflammatory topical may be needed. If that is the case, it is important to apply the prescription topical first, then your moisturizer.

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