Get the Skinny on Skin Care

Winter is coming. As the coldest season of the year sets in, the combination of frigid and dry air can leave skin itchy, red and irritated.

Dry skin occurs when exposed to harsh elements such as dry weather conditions, making it difficult for the skin to retain enough moisture during winter. The low humidity both indoors and outdoors may leave the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, susceptible to flaking and cracking and may sometimes leave a burning sensation. Simply sitting by the fire and taking a hot shower to warm up dries out the skin, stripping it of its natural oils.

Why Healthy Skin Matters

The skin is the largest organ of the body. It is responsible for keeping body fluids in to prevent dehydration and protect it from harmful organisms that can cause infections. The nerve endings in the skin transmit signals to the brain in response to heat, cold, pain and touch. It also regulates body temperature and with the help of healthy doses of exposure from the sun, produces vitamin D that promotes calcium absorption and bone growth.

Common Skin Issues

Although the winter season poses skin nuisances such as allergies, irritants, genetic makeup and certain diseases, and immune system problems can cause rashes, hives and other skin conditions. The following are some of the most common skin disorders:

  • Acne – a common skin condition caused by clogged pores or when oil from glands, bacteria and dead cells clump together and swell.
  • Eczema or atopic dermatitis – a common skin condition characterized by dry, itchy and inflamed patches of skin. Other types of eczema include contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic dermatitis, nummular dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Psoriasis - a chronic and autoimmune skin disease that causes red, scaly and, sometimes silvery or red patches that may feel painful, swollen or itchy. This condition affects around 7.4 million people in the United States alone.
  • Rosacea - a chronic skin disease that may go through cycles of fading and relapse. It may be triggered by certain foods and intestinal bacteria. It can make the skin thicker and cause eye problems. Common symptoms include facial flushing, raised, red bumps, facial redness, skin dryness and skin sensitivity.
  • Skin cancer - the most common cancer in the United States. The two most common types of skin cancer that are curable include basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. The third most common skin cancer is melanoma. It is also more dangerous and causes the most deaths.

Top 10 Tips for Healthy Skin

There are several simple and inexpensive ways to combat dry skin this winter and beyond. As we celebrate the National Healthy Skin Month in November, here are some effective skin care tips that can be done at home to help keep it moisturized and supple for all seasons.

  1. Wear sunscreen daily. Choose a sunscreen that is broad-spectrum, water-resistant and SPF 30 or higher. Avoid overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, either from the sun or from artificial sources.
  2. Stay out of tanning beds. If you want that golden glow, use a self-tanner instead.
  3. Drink plenty of water to maintain hydration throughout the body and skin. Cosmetics with green tea extracts, vitamin A, vitamin C, retinoids and antioxidants may help manage wrinkles or sagging skin.
  4. Simplify your skin care routine: a gentle cleanser, sunscreen and moisturizer.
  5. Wear protective clothing. Use a hat with a wide brim to protect your neck, ears and head from direct sunlight. Always bring a pair of sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of the sun’s rays.
  6. Choose skin care products formulated for your skin type.
  7. Give your lips attention too. Use a lip balm or lipstick with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  8. For people with dry skin, try using a humidifier at home to add moisture in the air. Take fewer baths and use a milder soap.
  9. Keep your hands off your face. Avoid popping, picking or squeezing your pimples.
  10. Check your skin regularly for skin cancer. Look for new spots that are different from the others, which may itch, bleed and change in size, shape or color.

Wintertime can be wonderful but if skin issues continue to persist or worsen, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to properly address and assess these conditions.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institutes of Health
American Academy of Dermatology Association
Harvard Health Publishing

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