Tips for Healthy Winter Skin

BIDMC Contributor

NOVEMBER 19, 2018

Winter is coming. But dry, itchy skin doesn't have to come along with it. BIDMC dermatologist, Erica Dommasch, MD, shares tips on keeping skin hydrated and healthy this season.

Maintaining Soft Hands

Anyone who comes in contact with water a lot is at risk for dry hands. Adding dry, cold weather to the mix only worsens the issue. "Use a hand sanitizer over washing, if possible," says Dommasch. "Sanitizer is as effective at killing most germs as washing, unless hands are really soiled." If washing with soap and water, Dommasch recommends applying a thick cream moisturizer after to keep hands hydrated.

Keeping Lips Hydrated

Unlike skin, lips don't have oil glands to keep them lubricated. The best way to treat chapped lips is something that has can be found in most medicine cabinets. "Petroleum jelly is one of the best things to use in winter because it not only rehydrates, it also protects," says Dommasch. She also encourages wearing a lip balm with an SPF in it, or applying sunscreen directly to the lips, especially when outside for long periods of time.

Staying Safe in the Winter Sun

Don't put away the sunscreen. According to Dommasch, sun exposure during the winter months can be just as concerning as in the summer. Ultraviolet (UV) rays reflect off of snow and are stronger in higher altitudes. Dommasch strongly recommends wearing an SPF 15 or higher for daily use and 30 and higher, if skiing. "It's pretty common to get a bad sunburn from skiing," says Dommasch. And she reminds people to reapply every two to three hours, especially if an activity causes sweating.

Controlling Itchiness

If one is prone to eczema, winter weather can trigger a flare-up. "I see patients in the dead of winter with eczema who don't normally get eczema," says Dommasch. Known as the 'itch that rashes,' eczema appears as itchy, red patches of dry, flaky skin. According to Dommasch, the best way to avoid an eczema flare is to moisturize with a thick cream every day, especially within two minutes after bathing. She recommends gently patting dry as opposed to rubbing, which could lead to irritation.

Other helpful skin care tips:
  • Use a humidifier at home.
  • Wear a soft, base layer under coarse, itchy fabrics, such as wool
  • Opt for gentle, fragrance-free cleansers for body and face
  • Limit shower/bath times to 10 minutes or less and no more than once daily
  • Eat right and stay hydrated
  • Change out of wet clothes quickly to avoid itchy skin

The Department of Dermatology at BIDMC offers a variety of care and treatment services for all types of skin conditions.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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