The time has come again …transitioning from that sun-kissed summer skin to that sense of itchy dryness which takes over during the frigid NEPA winters. For some reason, our skin never seems to feel as good in the winter as is does during the warm summer months. Perhaps when prompted by a healthy dose of vitamin D from the sun, some of us take better care of our skin during the summer months and take extra precaution with sunscreen and moisturizers to maintain its natural glow. Some of us hardly alter our skin care routine and daily habits with the change of seasons and just find our skin to feel healthier in the summer rather than in the winter. Whichever your individual case may be, I have 10 tips that will have your skin looking good and feeling good all winter long.
- Sunscreen: Bet you thought this was strictly a summer necessity. Nope! The sun’s UVB rays, or the type of rays that damage our skin without proper protection, remain strong even through the winter months. Add some snow and ice into the mix, which reflects up to 90% of the sun’s UVB rays, and we get a double dose of harmful rays. This only increases our risk of skin damage, and even cancer. Try using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on the face, ears, and hands during the winter.
- Moisturize: Moisturizers keep water from escaping from our skin. Hence, it may be beneficial to apply moisturizer a few minutes after taking a shower, as the cream helps to seal in the hydration gained from the shower.
- Ditch the hot showers: Long, hot showers can wipe away some of our skin’s natural oils and moisture. Cutting down our time in the shower, as well as using warm or lukewarm water can help to reduce excess skin dryness or eczema flare ups. Patting dry instead of rubbing dry is also important for preventing further skin irritation.
- Turn down the heat: The first thing that we usually do on a cold winter day is to turn up the thermostat to take the chill out of the air. Well, you may want to think twice before you do this as heat within our homes tends to be dehydrating to the skin. Consider keeping your household temps at a comfortable 68-70 degrees with an ideal humidity of about 50% to minimize dryness.
- Use a humidifier: Adding moisture to the dry winter air can help to maintain skin hydration and to decrease overall dryness and flakiness. A good place to put it would be in your bedroom, as a large portion of your day is spent there.
- Light and soft clothing: Heavy wool sweaters and thick thermal wear can be itchy and irritating when directly placed on the skin. Thick clothing typically isn’t as breathable or comfortable as cotton or other light fabrics. Stick to light and airy layers to avoid any irritation and build heavier clothing on top.
- Hydrate: Water, water, and more water! Studies show that good hydration can improve blood flow to the skin, which increases skin cell growth, as well as improves dryness and overall complexion. A simple rule of thumb for appropriate water intake is to divide your body weight by 2, and to drink that amount in ounces daily.
- Exercise: Getting some level of activity in each day increases our heart rate and gets our blood pumping much more efficiently. With increased blood flow, our skin benefits by gaining more oxygen, growing new cells, and producing more collagen to improve elasticity and smoothness.
- Non-irritating Soaps and Cleansers: Soaps and face washes that contain fragrances or exfoliating properties tend to have more chemicals, and thus more irritating factors for the skin. Minimize scented products, especially for the face, as much as possible to prevent excess redness and drying throughout the winter.
- Don’t miss the lips: Dry and cracked lips are never fun to deal with, and cold air only seems to make it worse. In addition, avoid picking, licking, or biting the lips to prevent further cracks and irritation. Consider using daily Vaseline or other lip balms and ointments, especially overnight, to keep the lips hydrated and smooth.
For more information, refer to the American Academy of Dermatology or www.aad.org.
Mia Woloszyn, MD3 Mia Woloszyn is a native of Madison Twp, PA. She graduated from Scranton Preparatory School in 2015 and attained of Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Scranton in 2019. She is currently a 3rd year medical student at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. Her clinical interests include Dermatology, Primary Care, and Preventative Medicine.
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Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.