Winter has finally arrived in Minnesota and the holiday season is in full force. As we focus on giving this time of year, it’s important to remember to take care of ourselves – especially the largest organ of our body, our skin! Winter brings cold temperatures, blustery winds, and that white fluffy stuff we all have a love/hate relationship with. As tough Minnesotans, our skin can really take a beating from the elements. In the clinic, we see a lot of patients with concerns about dry skin – also known as “xerosis.” Xerosis can be caused by a multitude of factors, but there are many easy tips you can use to help improve your skin’s hydration:
Avoid long, hot showers and baths: It is always tempting to combat the cold by taking a long, hot shower or bath, but water (especially hot water) actually dries out our skin. It increases skin sensitivity and strips the natural oils, making skin more prone to xerosis. Use lukewarm temperature water and limit your time to 15 minutes or less. Be weary of hot tubs as well!
Use a gentle, unscented soap: By definition, soaps work by stripping oils off of our skin. This can be tough on already moisture-stressed skin. Choose a soap that shows it is approved by dermatologists on the label. The best types are “non-soap-soaps” also known as “skin cleansers.” Try to limit the amount of skin you expose to your cleanser by only washing the “dirty” areas of your body.
Always apply a moisturizing lotion or cream immediately after you exit the bath/shower: Again, avoid scented and dyed products, and reach for those approved by dermatologists. Creams are thicker than lotions, and some people prefer one over the other. The important thing is that you apply your chosen product immediately after towel drying off because our skin pores are dilated and will absorb the most product then. When your body cools off, the pores will close and keep that added moisturizer in the skin.
Stay hydrated by increasing your water intake (especially if you plan to fly!) and consider adding a humidifier in your home: Drinking more water will help keep your skin moist from the inside and also has other great health benefits. As the temperature plummets, so does the relative humidity. Central heating is great for keeping our homes warm and cozy, but it too dries out the air. Add moisture back into the air and subsequently your skin by using a humidifier. Finally, if you’re hopping on a plane this winter, remember airplane cabin humidity levels can be as low as 10-20% – this is drier than the Sahara Desert! Be sure to carry a bottle of water and lip balm with you during travels.
If you are still struggling with dry skin this winter, come see us at Clarus Dermatology. Sometimes our skin can get so dry that it cannot properly hold moisture any longer, and develops eczema. We can help you tailor a plan specifically for your skin and, if needed, prescribe medications to help your skin feel and look better.