Winter is Coming! Just as summer increases the risk of certain skin conditions due to increased exposure to the sun, winter also has its skincare concerns.
Skin problems caused by winter are often due to the body’s attempt to keep itself warm. The blood vessels narrow in order to keep the body’s heat locked within. Consequently, the outermost layers of the skin dries out and starts to flake. The cold, dry air dries out skin even further and this can exacerbate skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and acne. People with such conditions are often susceptible to flare-ups or breakouts in the cold weather. Additionally, heating systems dry out our skin even further.
Showers and baths should be kept short year round but especially in the winter. Most people enjoy bathing in hot water, but lukewarm water is much better for your skin. Hot water may feel good, but it dries out the skin by stripping it of its protective oils. Make sure not to use abrasive washcloths and sponges. If possible, only wash places that produce odors like your feet, groin, and underarms.
Avoid scented soaps. They are full of perfumes that will strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it dry. We recommend superfatted soaps that contain more oils or butters than regular soaps. They will help moisturize the skin. Also, liquid soaps generally tend to contain more moisturizers than bar soaps.
When you are done bathing, gently pat the skin dry with a towel. Don’t rub the skin harshly. Otherwise your towel will absorb the protective oils you want on your skin.
After bathing, apply a moisturizer to the skin to keep it hydrated. Moisturizers come as lotions or creams. The water-to-oil ratio is the only significant difference between the two. Lotions contain more water and if a moisturizer is at least 50 percent oil, it is considered a cream.
The advantage to lotions is that they are not greasy. They are less viscous than creams, allowing for the skin to absorb them more easily. Lotions also work well for people with normal to slightly dry skin, particularly in the summer.
Because creams contain more oil, they help the skin retain moisture by creating a barrier between it and the environment. Creams help people with very dry skin throughout the year and they are generally a better bet than lotions in winter for all skin types.
What about people with oily or acne-prone skin? Though you may not think it, they need moisturizers, too. Oily skin still need to be hydrated. In fact, dry skin can increase the risk of breakouts because the body will produce more oil in an attempt to moisturize. Look for moisturizers that are “non-comedogenic,” which simply means it won’t trap oil in the pores. Such moisturizers will often contain aloe, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, or squalane. Conversely, we suggest avoiding moisturizers that contain cocoa butter, lanolin, mineral oil, or petrolatum.
We recommend checking your moles at the summer’s end to see if they have undergone any changes. While skin gets the most sun exposure during the summer, moles can turn cancerous at any time of the year. We, therefore, recommend quarterly skin exams.
You can check your own moles by following the ABCDE Rule. It describes the signs of possible skin cancer in the following manner:
A normal mole will have two halves that match, and it will have regular and even borders. It will be one color all the way through and its diameter will be no bigger than that of a pencil eraser. It will also not evolve or change in any way. If a mole is turning colors, getting bigger, or changing in any other way, it’s time to call the doctor.
We strongly urge people to use sunscreen when outdoors year round, even on cloudy days. Sunscreen is the most important step in attaining healthy skin and preventing sun damage. We recommend a moisturizer with sunscreen of SPF 15-30 for daily wear and a sunscreen on SPF 45 or greater for all outdoor activity. We carry a wide selection of sunscreen available to suit your need and skin type.
We suggest using chapstick or lip balm year round and especially in the winter. Chapped lips are a common winter hazard, and keeping a lip balm handy can keep the lips from getting too dry. Look for lip balms that contain almond oil, aloe vera, calendula oil, coconut oil, cottonseed oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, sunflower oil, or wheat germ oil. Also, avoid lipstick that is matte or long-lasting, for such lipsticks often contain ingredients that cause or exacerbate dryness. Try over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointment if your lips get severely chapped.
Do you have questions about how to take care of your skin in winter? Contact Adult & Pediatric Dermatology today for information.