by Kimberly Allen, RN
Here comes winter and with it the cold and wind as well as the dry air that causes and/or worsens pretty much every known skin condition. As the dry air of winter pulls the moisture from our skin it then cracks and peels shedding excessive skin cells. Some experts say it’s causes a vicious cycle to develop. The excessive shedding of skin cells leads to increased loss of water and oils which in turn leads to even more dry skin. And for people that already suffer with skin problems like eczema or psoriasis the effect of winter weather tends to take a bad problem and make it worse. Also, many people focus on skin care during the summer months protecting it from the rays of the sun and then feel they don’t need to bother when winter comes around which is a mistake.
You may not be able to stop winter from coming but you can take measures to limit it’s effect on your skin. Many experts recommend changing your daily care products like body soap and shampoo to ones that are formulated for sensitive skin and contain moisturizers as well as chaning your laundry soap to one that is hypoallergenic and doesn’t contain any dyes or perfumes.
One mistake that most people make, myself included, is that in the cold of winter we tend to take long hot showers or baths because they warm us and make us feel better. However, this tends to cause more harm than good. For one thing the hot water removes the natural oils from your skin, making already dry skin drier. What you should do is limit your shower/bath keeping it
as short as possible and use luke warm water instead of hot water and use moisturizing soaps. When you finish your shower/bath instead of vigorously drying off with a towel gently pat excess moisture then apply a moisturizer while your skin is still damp.
Whether you have an existing skin condition or not, moisturizing is crucial to effective skin care. There are numerous over the counter skin care products available that are inexpensive yet effective. Many Drs have said they have the most difficulty getting their male patient to moisturize regularly. Many men feel it’s unmanly to moisturize but I can assure you it is more manly to be responsible for yourself and take care of your self than to have cracked skin that develops an infection. It’s not so important how you moistuize but it is important that you do it regularly.
Some of the most common winter skin probelms includes chapped hands and chapped lips. Rough, dry, red hands are one of the most common problems in winter. There are many factors that can make your hands chapped, including frequent handwashing. With winter here cold and flu season is also here so many people are washing their hands and using alcohol based hand sanitizers which is good to prevent the spread of germs but can be bad for your skin. It’s important to moisturize your hands as often as you can when washing frequently though I know it’s easier said than done sometimes. As a home health nurse, I used hand sanitizer by the gallon, the problem was that even if I moisturized after using the hand sanitizer within minutes I was washing it off again with more hand sanitizer when I arrived at the next patient’s home. So my hands would get really dry, cracked and painful. I found that coating my hands with vassoline then covering them with gloves at night when I went to sleep made a huge difference in my skin.
Because our lips do not have oil glands they dry very easily especially in the winter. It’s important to use a good chap stick or lip balm to keep them moist. Avoid licking your lips as that will cause them to dry out and chap faster.
Remember the key to winter skin care is moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.