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.
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: email@example.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
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!
The majority of skin cancers are
caused by harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Two major types are UVA
- UVA rays account for the majority of UV rays in sunlight (about 95%) and penetrate deep into the skin causing continual damage throughout our lives – a process called ‘photo-aging’ that results in wrinkles, sunspots, and uneven texture. UVA can also damage skin at a microscopic level, which may contribute to the development of skin cancers.
- UVB rays, while they do not penetrate as deeply, are what cause sunburns when we spend too much time under the sun. UVB rays are primarily responsible for the development of skin cancers.
Protect your Skin for its Looks
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
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:
- Look for the words “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB” on the label – this will ensure you are protecting yourself from all of the sun’s damaging effects
- Chose a product that is water-resistant if you anticipate sweating or swimming.
- Don’t stress over SPF. SPF stands for “sun protection” factor. An SPF 15 sunscreen blocks over 90% of UV rays. What’s more important is re-applying periodically throughout the day.
- Don’t let the cold weather fool you – while they may not feel warm, the suns rays are still penetrating the layers of your skin.
- Wear sunscreen even when it’s cloudy – harmful UV rays are invisible and are able to pass through.
- Don’t forget your ears and lips! Some skin cancers are especially common in these areas.
Another consideration when choosing
a sunscreen is chemical versus physical blockers:
- Chemical sunscreens typically contain a combination of the following ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octpcrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. These work by absorbing the UV rays and preventing their damaging effects. Make sure to apply at least 30 minutes before heading outside, as these take some time before they begin working effectively.
- Physical, or mineral, sunscreens contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. These works by creating a layer over the skin that deflects or blocks the UV rays from penetrating. These are a great choice especially if you have sensitive skin.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.