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In Northeastern Pennsylvania, winter is a fun-filled time for outdoor activities. Many people will be enjoying the outdoors hiking, snow shoe hiking, sledding, down-hill and cross-country skiing, snow-boarding, ice-skating and ice fishing. However, frigid, wind, snow, and sleet can play havoc on your skin. It is critical to be keenly aware of the time spent in the cold no matter what age and to recognize the importance of making skin protection part of your daily regimen throughout the entire year. Dry, red, flaking, itchy and scaly skin can make you crazy and uncomfortable. Furthermore, dry and cracked skin is an opportunity for a variety of bacterial, fungal and viral infections to enter your body.

10 Winter Skin Safety Tips For Outdoor Active Lifestyles

1. Limit Use of Soap

Excessive use of soap and water in the cold winter months can strip       away the skin’s natural oils. Use cleansing creams, gentle skin cleansers or bath lotions with moisturizers instead of harsh soap. Following the use of a good skin product, your shin should feel soft and smooth, not tight or dry. Non detergent fragrance free neutral-pH products are helpful and kind to winter skin. Experiment with several mild soaps such as CetaphilR, AveenoR, NeutrogenaR, BasisR or DoveR until you find the right one for you. Dr. Ted Stampien, MD, a local dermatologist in Clarks Summit, recommends that shower gels should be avoided because they contain alcohol.

2. Soak Your Skin With Moisturizers

One proven method to prevent dry winter skin even when using regular soap is to moisturize your skin immediately after bathing to trap in water in the surface cells and then gently pat dry. For severe dryness, Dr. Stampien also recommends that you apply a second coating of moisturizing cream after you pad dry for further protection. He notes that creams are more moisturizing than lotions or gels. For extremely dry skin apply baby oil or almond or vitamin E oil to moist skin. Also, if your skin is so dry that it itches, apply 1% hydrocortisone to the area followed by a thick moisturizing cream. Try thicker creams such as Eucerin and Lubriderm and use cosmetics with moisturizers.  

3. Protect Your Skin From the Sun

Many people forget to protect their skin from the sun in the winter. However, when the winter sun is reflected off the snow and ice it can be very strong on an unprotected face, especially the cheeks and lips.

WhWhile SPF 15 is considered adequate protection, dermatologists recommend a minimum of SPF 30 or greater for most people. Choose a sunscreen with ingredients that block both UVB and UVA rays. Apply lotion liberally to all exposed skin before you go outside. Remember to include the lips, ears, and around eyes. Sunscreens are available in lotion, gel, spray, cream and sticks. Some are made fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, or especially for sensitive skin or children. Dr. Stampien states that patients with sensitive skin or eczema typically tolerate sunscreens that contain zinc and titanium oxide such as Blue LizardR, SolbarR and NeutrogenaR and that these patients should avoid sprays and gels as these products usually contain alcohol which can sting upon application.

UVUV-blocking ski goggles or sunglasses with wraparound or large frames protect your eyelids and the sensitive skin around your eyes, common sites for skin cancer and sun-induced aging. Goggles and sunglasses also help reduce the risk of cataracts later in life.

However, the sun is a good source of Vitamin D. Recent studies show that people may be developing Vitamin D deficiency due to over protection from the sun. For those concerned about overprotection from both UVA and UVB rays and becoming Vitamin D deficient, Dr. Stampien, suggests using Vitamin D supplements of 600-1000 IU. He feels that this provides adequate levels of Vitamin D to maintain healthy bones and muscles and may lower the risk of certain cancers.

4. Do Not Soak in The Tub

The longer you soak in water, the more skin oils you lose. Therefore, in the winter it is wise to limit baths and showers to 5 minutes or less and use tepid water. Avoid very hot water. Also, only wash your face once or twice a day in the winter. Cool water wiping without soap is recommended if washing your face more than once per day.

5. Try to Avoid a Hot Dry House

Keep your house temperature at 68-70 degrees and use a portable humidifier with 40-50% humidity levels in rooms that you spend a lot of time in such as the kitchen, TV and bedroom.

6. Wear Skin-Friendly Fabrics

Natural fibers such as cotton and silk are skin-friendly. However, DryTech products like those made by Nike and UnderArmor wick sweat away and prevent chaffing when participating in outdoor activities.

7. Proper Diet Can Protect Your Skin

As with all matters of health and wellness, a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds, and nuts is essential. Additionally, certain foods such as avocados offer niacin, an inflammation-reducing agent which can improve complexion. Yellow and orange produce such as carrots, cantaloupes and apricots are also recommended. Keep in mind that alcohol and caffeine are diuretics that can cause the body and skin to lose fluid and nutrients. Stay hydrated.

8. Live Healthy

Smoking causes vasoconstriction of the blood vessels which limits blood flow of oxygen and nutrients to the skin and other tissues. Daily exercise to improve circulation and adequate sleep to replenish and recharge you body, contribute to health and wellness.

9. Avoid Dry Feet

Low humidity and cold temperatures can lead to skin breakdown and cause dry, scaly and uncomfortable feet. Coat your feet generously with lotion and sleep with cotton socks to maintain moisture. Remember, dry and cracked skin can allow bacterial, fungal and viral infections to enter the body.

10. See A Dermatologist

Skin conditions are often a symptom of a much more serious underlying medical problem. For example, problems with the thyroid, liver, or kidney or cancer can be associated with skin ailments. If problems persist, seek medical attention.   

SOURCES:; Mayo Clinic; WebMD
CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS: Ted Stampien, MD, is a dermatologist in Clarks Summit, PA

EVERY 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:

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 GCSOM

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles visit: Mackarey's Health and Exercise Forum

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

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:

For all of Dr. Mackarey's Articles visit:

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.