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Ten Tips to Help Relieve Dry Winter Skin

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January 15, 2010

Chicago -

For many people, the cold days of winter bring more than just a rosy glow to the cheeks. The chilly, breezy weather combined with a drop in humidity can suck the moisture out of the skin leaving it tight, itchy and all around uncomfortable. While winter weather can pose a challenge when it comes to keeping your skin hydrated, physicians say simple modifications to your skin care routine can help.

“Every season your skin care regimen should change, particularly in the winter. There is an immense drop in moisture that can be damaging to your skin causing dryness. This can lead to itching, irritation, cuts or sores”, said Naomi Donnelley, MD, dermatologist with Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group.

Donnelley offers the following tips to banish dry skin and give your winter skin care regimen a boost:

Avoid hot showers and baths, and use a gentle cleanser
Sure, soaking in a hot bath feels great after frolicking out in the cold. But the intense heat of a hot shower or bath actually breaks down the lipid barriers in the skin, which can lead to a loss of moisture. Long showers and baths also dehydrate the skin. Keep showers and baths short and lukewarm. Also, look for gentle cleansers. Harsh soaps, such as anti-bacterial soaps, dry out the skin.

Moisturize your skin frequently
In general, lotions don’t cut it in the winter - look for creams and even petroleum based products, depending on the dryness of your skin. Some ingredients to look out for include ceramides, dimethicone, urea, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, petrolatum and lanolin. If you tend to break out, look for the words “non-comedogenic”, which means that the particular moisturizer will not clog your pores. Be aware that products containing oil do not necessarily lead to breakouts, and oil-free products aren’t always non-comedogenic. Be sure to moisturize every time you wash your hands and get out of the shower.

Shower then shave
Shaving can irritate dry skin. Men, shave after you get out of the shower. Women, save shaving for last while in the shower. This way the hairs are softer and your pores are open. Be sure to always moisturize after shaving and change your razor often to prevent dull blades or a build-up of bacteria.

Getting rid of dead skin cells makes way for plumper, moisture-packed cells underneath. While you're in the shower, gently rub on a mild exfoliating product made with sugar or microbeads, and rinse thoroughly. Don’t use anything too aggressive, especially on gentle facial skin, and only exfoliate once a week or so. Apply moisturizer after exfoliating.

Hook up the humidifier
Hot, dry indoor air can parch sensitive skin and worsen itching and flaking. A portable home humidifier or one attached to your furnace adds moisture to the air inside your home. Make sure your humidifier is easy to clean and/or has a good filter to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. If a humidifier is not possible, add a few plants to your surroundings. The water in the leaves diffuses into the air and adds moisture.

Chose fabrics that are kind to your skin
Cotton and silk are good choices because they allow your skin to breath. Wool can irritate even normal skin. When you wash your clothes, try to use detergents without dyes or perfumes. Dress in layers to prevent overheating or excessive perspiration.

Grab those gloves
Protecting hands from the cold air and low humidity plays an important role in preventing dry skin. Make sure the gloves are made from material that does not irritate your skin. Try a cotton mitten next to the skin and a wool mitten over the cotton one. This will keep your hands warm and dry.

Apply sunscreen
Sunscreen isn't just for summertime. Winter sun combined with snow glare can still damage your skin. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will be sufficient. If you’ll be outdoors for an extended period of time, choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 45 or higher and re-apply every hour or two.

Grease up your feet
Those minty foot lotions are lovely in the hot summer months, but during the winter, your feet need stronger ingredients. Try finding lotions that contain urea, ammonium lactate, petrolatum or glycerin instead.

Protect your lips
Use an oil-based lubricating cream or lip balm containing petrolatum or beeswax before going out in the cold, dry weather. Don’t forget to use one with SPF. Cover your lips with a scarf and avoid licking them.

“Most cases of dry skin will clear up within a few weeks of adjusting your routine. If your skin doesn’t improve, consider calling your doctor. You might be dealing with a condition such as eczema (atopic dermatitis) or psoriasis that requires more aggressive medical therapy”, said Donnelley.

For more information about protecting your skin, call (312) 926-DOCS (3627).

Media Contact:

Angela Salerno
Senior Associate
Media Relations

Last UpdateFebruary 8, 2011