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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

www.washingtonpost.com/health/winter-seriously-dries-out-your-skin-cold-air-and-heating-systems-are-to-blame

www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/dry/heal-dry-chapped-lips

www.everydayhealth.com/skin-and-beauty/top-tips-for-healthy-winter-skin.aspx

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.

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

For all of Dr. Mackarey's Articles visit: mackareyphysicaltherapy.com/forum/

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.

Protect your Skin for it Health

Skin Cancer

Despite the fact that we have limited exposure to sunny days in NEPA (50%), skin cancer still exists in large numbers. Skin cancer is the most common cause of cancer in the United States. While there are several types of skin cancer and not necessarily all are deadly, procedures to remove these skin cancers are both costly and frequently result in unsightly scars. The most dangerous type of skin cancer, called melanoma, results in an estimated 10,000 deaths per year. The good news? Nearly all skin cancers are preventable!

UV rays

The majority of skin cancers are caused by harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Two major types are UVA and UVB:

Protect your Skin for its Looks

Aging

In the field of anti-aging, advertisers make lofty promises for many products that claim to contain or boost collagen. Whether or not these work is a whole other discussion, but what is collagen and what does it have to do with wrinkles?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is found in nearly all tissues and organs, and plays a crucial role in maintaining structural integrity. Unfortunately, collagen production naturally decreases with age. This causes many of the findings we associate with older age, such as sagging skin and wrinkles, as well as joint pain. Collagen also works together with another important protein called elastin, which helps to maintain elasticity – a feature commonly associated with youthful skin.

When exposed to UV rays, these proteins can become damaged. For instance, studies have shown that skin exposed to UV rays increases the expression of proteins called matrix metalloproteinases, or MMPs. You can think of these MMPs as collagen’s enemy, as they cause their degradation. This results in a decrease in collagen’s structural function leading to loose and wrinkled skin. UV rays can also stimulate the production of reactive oxygen species. These are substances such as hydrogen peroxide and bleach, which further cause destruction of skin’s microscopic structure.

Sunscreen Tips & Tricks

So, you’re convinced and have decided to keep your skin healthy and youthful – what next? With so many different products on the market, choosing a daily sunscreen can become a difficult task. Here are a few pointers:

Another consideration when choosing a sunscreen is chemical versus physical blockers:

If preventing skin cancer isn’t incentive enough to wear sunscreen daily and avoid excessive sun exposure (and indoor tanning booths!), then consider the rapid effects on aging the sun’s rays can have. While a tan may look good for a week, avoiding exposure to UV rays will both delay and prevent aging for years.

For more information on skin cancer and prevention, please visit the Center for Disease Control’s website (https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/) and contact your physician for specific concerns regarding spots on your skin.

This column is a monthly feature of “Health & Exercise Forum” in association with the students and faculty of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.

This week’s article was written by Eduardo Ortiz, a fourth year medical student at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (GCSOM). Eduardo majored in Biology and minored in Art History at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. As president of the Dermatology Interest group, he helped organize a free skin cancer screening with local dermatologists earlier this year.

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – every Monday. This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

See all of Dr. Mackarey's articles in his "Health and Exercise Forum" at https://mackareyphysicaltherapy.com/forum/

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.