Combating Winter Skin

by Christina Burr, PA-C – Dermatology at The Specialist Clinic at Southwest Health

Winter is tough on your skin. Many people suffer from dryness and often have dry flaking or itching along with it. The dry air and cold wind of winter can take its toll on your skin. As we age, it also becomes harder for our skin to naturally retain moisture on its own. Many conditions such as Eczema, Psoriasis, Seborrheic Dermatitis and Rosacea can worsen or flare in harsh winter weather. However, a few simple changes to your daytime and bathing routine can calm your skin and make a world of difference in just a couple weeks!

Save a little water

I recommend you choose a fragrance free moisturizing soap, such as Dove Sensitive Skin Moisturizing bar (or liquid body wash), Cetaphil wash or Aveeno moisturizing bar (or skin relief body wash). Avoid harsh soaps, fragrances and exfoliating washes as these can irritate or aggravate dry sensitive skin.

Everyone loves a long hot shower or bath, especially on a cold day, but this can be hard on your skin and often leads to increased dryness and itching.  Taking shorter, lukewarm showers can help fight winter dryness and help avoid stripping natural oils from your skin.

Give your skin a healthy dose of Hydration

Lotion is your first defense against dry skin. If you have dry or itchy winter skin and you are not applying daily lotion, you should start. People ask me all the time, what lotion is best. In general any fragrance free lotion is better than none, but some offer advantages. If you have a lotion you tolerate well and find works for you, then great! But if you suffer from eczema, psoriasis or just have naturally dry skin on the face or body that is not improving with regular lotion, then using a ceramide lotion such as Cetaphil, Cerave or Aveeno Eczema can help you lock in moisture better and ease your dry skin faster. Ceramides are a component of normal skin that helps you lock in moisture and so a lotion with ceramides can sometimes give you an edge when moisturizing.

Many people don’t realize that to get the full benefit of a lotion, it is best applied to wet skin. Experts recommend applying lotion within the first 3 minutes following your shower or bath. Often I have patients move their lotion right into the shower and apply their lotion as soon as you shut the water off. You can then step out, wrap up in your towel and brush your teeth or brush your hair while you air dry for a few minutes before patting dry the rest of the way. This simple change alone can make a big difference in just two weeks.

Get ready to pucker up

Vaseline or Aquaphor can be great emollients to use to fight chapped lips or really dry areas. If regular Chap Stick isn’t cutting it, try applying Aquaphor or Vaseline 5-10 times daily for at least 2 weeks to ease chapped lips. Splash a little water on your lips first so the Aquaphor/Vaseline can lock in the moisture. Whatever you do, be sure to avoid licking your lips as this will make things worse!

Everyday skin tips

  • Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • An in home humidifier can help fight winter dryness. Keep your house between 40-50% humidity for health and comfort.
  • Be sure to wear your sunscreen, even in the winter. Eighty percent of the sun’s harmful rays still come through on a cloudy day and combined with snow reflection you would be surprised how much sun you can get on any exposed skin during your regular routine. I recommend an SPF at least a 30. Choose one with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for the best coverage.

If you have any red, dry or scaly areas that do not resolve within four weeks of moisturizing or that are painful, bleeding or growing, then you should have your dermatology provider take a look to make sure it isn’t something that needs further attention.

Schedule a yearly skin check with your dermatology provider even if you are not having a problem. Prevention is key, and catching skin changes early can save your life.

Christina Burr, PA-C
Certified Physician Assistant – Dermatology
Appointments (608) 342-5060
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