Winter Weather Advisory

Dr. Sara Moghaddam shares her checklist to ensure your skin is protected from the elements

There are many things to look forward to this winter season, but winter’s dramatically dry air is not one of them. Did you know that dryness of your skin can cause itching, eczema and worsening of existing skin conditions? Be prepared this season and
fight back!

Here are some tips I share with
my patients that will help your skin stay hydrated and comfortable:

If you develop a rash this winter, see your board-certified dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment: Severe dry skin can develop into eczema. The skin can become bright red and inflamed, itchy, cracked or flaky and sometimes weepy when severe. Other skin conditions, such as psoriasis, can worsen in the winter. A dermatologist can evaluate, diagnose and treat the skin appropriately with prescription treatment.

Mature skin requires more aggressive moisturizing measures: As we age, the skin barrier declines, and our bodies do not produce the natural skin oils like we did earlier in life. Proper care is critical to prevent skin breakdown, irritation and rash. A gentle, fragrance-free cream is a good place to start, but if you are finding yourself still dry, you may need to step up to an ointment or petroleum.

Using a humidifier can help replenish water content in your home air: The heater in your home will be running often during these upcoming cold months, which has a nonstop drying effect. The humidifier replaces the lost moisture in the air.

Avoid sitting in front of a fireplace or heat source: The heater in your house is already contributing to dryness. The fireplace may feel cozy, but being too close to the heat source can tip your skin over the edge this season. 

Petroleum jelly applied to lips can prevent chapped lips: This is the richest moisturizer one could use this season. While you may not like the slickness of petroleum jelly as a full-body moisturizer, it is great for small, localized areas, such as the lips. It is also great for barrier protection, to prevent irritation from saliva, foods and drinks.

Keep moisturizer by your sink to apply after hand washing: When you wash your hands, you strip away your natural skin oils, and the hands can become dry and cracked. Remember to apply a moisturizer immediately after washing to lock in hydration.

Cover up outside, since cold air and wind will strip hydration from your skin: Use gloves, scarves and hats to limit the cold air contact to the skin. The temperature extremes can also contribute to irritation and itching.

Limit baths and showers to no more than 10 minutes: Short-duration bathing gives your skin a chance to become rehydrated. Longer baths or showers can have the opposite effect. Also, limit bathing to just once daily.

Use warm water instead of hot: The higher water temperature will strip your skin’s natural oils away. Our skin barrier needs these oils to keep moisture inside and protect the skin from external stressors.

Choose a gentle, fragrance-free soap or cleanser: Although fragrant, flowery shower gels or the masculine- smelling soaps may be tempting, these are not ideal. They are extremely drying, and the fragrance can also cause itchy irritation to the skin.

After bathing, pat dry with a towel and apply moisturizer immediately: Your skin is still damp at this time, and the moisturizer helps seal the moisture into the skin. Use soft towels, and do not be too abrasive while drying off.

Choose a cream or ointment to put on the skin rather than a lotion: Lotions have less oil content. Although a lotion may be adequate during summer months, fragrance-free creams and ointments are much better selections for winter. They are made with higher amounts of oil, which is why they are richer and thicker when applied. Look for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, lanolin, mineral oil and petrolatum.

Editor’s note: Sara Moghaddam, M.D. is a board-certified dermatologist. Originally from Houston, Texas where her family still resides, she completed a dermatology residency at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York before making the Eastern Shore her home. Dr. Moghaddam is active in the community, as well as within the American Academy of Dermatology, where she serves on a patient-advocacy committee. Dr. Moghaddam enjoys all the aspects of dermatology, with a special interest in surgical and laser procedures, acne, cancer detection and skin rejuvenation.   

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