Our skin needs some special attention in the cold, winter months in order to look and feel its best. Below are some common issues and ways we can deal with them.
Dry, itchy, red hands
The combination of cold, dry weather and frequent hand washing to prevent colds and flu wreaks havoc on the skin of our hands! Do your best to apply a fragrance-free moisturizer EVERY TIME you wash your hands, before you put on gloves, and before bed. Keep moisturizer near all of your skins, at your desk at work, and in your bag to help you remember. Wear rubber gloves for washing dishes and cleaning. If your hands have already become red, itchy, and irritated, talk to your dermatologist about if it is appropriate to use a topical steroid or other medication for treatment.
What? It’s the middle of winter and I still have to think about sun protection? Yes! There are two special winter situations that require extra sun protection. The first is winter sports—skiing, snow boarding, snow tubing and ice skating can lead to hours outside. The reflection of the sun off of the snow and ice exposes you to the sun’s rays when you might not be expecting it. Even if the only part of you that is exposed is your face, it is important to apply and reapply a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. The second special situation is a warm-weather vacation in the middle of the winter. Philadelphia area winter skin is not prepared to be exposed to the strong sun of the Caribbean or Florida or other warm places. Sun screen alone is not enough to protect you in these situations. Make sure you pack a wide brim hat, sun shirt and other cover-ups, and plan to spend the middle of the day in the shade in order to prevent sun burn. Remember, even one blistering sun burn increases our risk of developing melanoma.
Eczema flares/itchy red facial and body skin
Like our hands, the rest of our skin is severely affected by the dry, cold winter weather. The following steps can help maintain our skin’s natural oils and prevent eczema flares and itching:
- Decrease bathing to every other day, and keep showers short and luke-warm.
- Use only your hands to wash yourself, and use a gentle sensitive skin soap, only under the arms and at the groin.
- Apply a thick, fragrance-free moisturizer all over your body EVERY DAY! Creams and ointments are thicker and more effective than lotions or oils.
- Use a humidifier in your bedroom at night.
- Minimize use of wool or other scratchy fabrics in clothing.
- If you use a topical retinoid product for acne or antiaging, consider decreasing the frequency of use to every other day or only a few times per week.
- Consider upgrading your facial and body moisturizer to a thicker cream or ointment for the winter.
- Decrease use of exfoliating brushes or scrubs on the face.
Many patients with psoriasis experience flares during the winter months because they are getting less sun exposure. Check to make sure you have enough of your topical medications for psoriasis, and that they are not expired, and consider discussing phototherapy or Extract laser therapy with your dermatologist for flares.