Norma Montiel, D.O. 

These are the simple things you can do to help keep your skin healthy during the long winter months.

  1. Take comfortable short showers.  Long hot showers will wash away the skin’s natural oils. Use fatty soaps or soaps that contain oils, such as Cetaphil, Dove or the Vanicream Cleansing Bar.  After the shower, it’s important to moisturize within 3 minutes of patting yourself dry.
  2. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!  Not just immediately after the shower, but during the day and even in the evenings.  Especially moisturize after washing your hands. Moisturizers called humectants have ingredients such as urea, glycerin, hyaluronic acid and propylene glycol, which absorb water from the air.  Emollients that include baby or mineral oil, plant oil (jojoba oil), petroleum jelly and stearic acid replace oil in the skin.  Many moisturizers contain both types of moisturizers. Some non-clogging oils such as avocado, mineral, primrose and almond oil are recommended.  Shea butter or Shea oil is still controversial because it can clog pores and create acne.  Vegetable oil should be avoided.
  3. Use fragrance free, unscented and hypoallergenic products to reduce irritation to the skin.  Exfoliation can help moisturizers penetrate, but be careful not to be too aggressive or exfoliate too often.  This can cause further irritation.  Mild exfoliates include lactic acid or salicylic acid.  Also, be careful of clay masks as these can draw out moisture from the skin. Facial peels, alcohol-based toners and astringents can also be irritating.
  4. Get a humidifier.  Indoor heating can create very dry air.  The more moisture, the less drying the air will be.
  5. Hands and feet also need to be protected.  Gloves should be worn in cold weather.  The skin on the hands is thin and cannot take the extremes of weather when going from indoors to outdoors. Use an emollient such as aquaphor on hands and feet. Cotton gloves can be worn on your hands.  You can use a heavier moisturizing night cream for your face.
  6. Don’t forget sunscreen.  80% of the sunrays are reflected off the snow as opposed to 20% off the sand and surf.  Your exposure is highest while skiing on a snow mountain.  Higher altitude and snow increase your exposure to UV rays.  Look for sun block with a minimum of SPF30 that contains blockers such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Oxide.  Reapply heavily every hour you’re out in the sun.
  7. Hair needs protection as well.  Wear hats and try to shampoo less often.  Avoid blow drying or hot ironing your hair.  Condition your hair often.
  8. Dress in layers. If you become overheated you can exacerbate dry skin.

If all else fails see a Dermatologist.  You may be suffering from something more than just dry skin.

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