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Dry Winter skin?

Category: Skin Deep
Posted: 2007-04-26 10:43

Ahhh, spring is indeed in the air! However, part of winter still shadows us. During the winter months, our bodies turn towards flannel and wooly sweaters, while our minds turn towards airfare and palm-tree lined shores; meanwhile our skin takes a turn toward something resembling old leather.

You can blame that dehydrated feeling on the warm, toasty air that heats our homes, schools, and offices. When the weather gets cold we naturally warm up our environments. The problem is, unless you add humidity to your surroundings with a humidifier or pans of water near radiators, a heated room has only about 15 percent relative humidity-as dry as Death Valley. Consequently, our skin becomes dry, flaky, scaly and sometimes itchy (and always bothersome).

Other irritants, namely wind, cold, soaps, water (which dries skin when it evaporates), and added stress make matters worse. Put it all together and your epidermis can dry out quicker than Aunt Gizelda's holiday fruitcake!

Dry skin and winter itch share a lot of symptoms with eczema and dermatitis. The key to making the winter season a merry one, itch-wise, is keeping your largest organ (your skin) well protected from the OutsideIn.

So, how do you protect yourself better next winter and, in the meantime, heal and restore your skin right now?

Keep your skin moisturized. Probably the most important thing you can do to prevent and treat dry skin is to moisturize daily with a cream-based moisturizer (advises Sheryl Clark, M.D., a dermatologist at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in New York City.)

Those with sensitive skin should choose a moisturizer
without perfumes or lanolin.


"Bathe in cool to tepid water as briefly as possible and no more than once a day,", according to Michael Ramsey, M.D., clinical instructor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Make the most of your tub time by adding a bath oil rich in moisturizers, even when you apply creams after bathing.

The most moisturizing noble oil is castor oil. "It's one of the few oils that will disperse in water, and it won't leave a ring around the tub," says Varro E. Tyler, Ph.D., professor of pharmacognosy at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and author of The Honest Herbal.

After bathing, pat your skin "almost dry", never totally dry with a towel. While the skin is still damp, apply your moisturizing cream. "It's more effective to apply moisturizer to damp skin immediately after bathing than to put it on totally dry skin, because the moisturizer is what holds the water in," says Kenneth H. Neldner, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock. "A couple of pats with a towel will make you as dry as you want to be before you apply the cream. You're trying to trap a little water in the skin, and that's the fundamental rule in fighting off dryness." If you have dry hands, he advises keeping some moisturizer near each sink in the house and using it as needed.

Now that you know how to shake off what's left of winter, you can welcome spring fresh and healthier from the OutsideIn!


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