Winter skin tips – Musings of an NYC dermatologist

Despite the balmy weather here in NYC on this last day of November,  it is still important to remind ourselves that colder weather is on its way and with it a greater risk of dry, itchy skin.

In order to understand how to keep your skin from drying out during the winter, it’s important to understand how it happens.  Basically, a lipid, or oil, layer on our skin helps keep the water in our skin from evaporating.   Dry cold air outside, dry warm air inside, and hot showers or baths with strong, stripping soaps disrupt this balance resulting in dry skin.  Dry skin is the most common cause of itchy skin.  It can also result in the flaring of underlying conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.   We may want to remove all the oil when we wash dishes, to get that sqweak, but this is not the case with our skin.

How does one keep one’s skin hydrated during the winter?  It’s simple.  Here are the tips:

1. avoid bathing or showering more than once a day and keep bath time to below 10 minutes (prevents stripping of all the oil).  If you must wash up more than once, such as after working out in the gym, focus on just rinsing off– unless you are truly dirty.

2. Hot water may feel great on a cold day, however,  it strips oil from the skin.  So, cool it down or make sure you moisturize well afterwards.

3. Don’t lather up your whole body with soap daily (it strips away the oil)- focus the soap on the armpits, groin, and buttocks

4. Use a rich moisturizer within 10 minutes of coming out of the shower to seal  the water in freshly hydrated skin.  Remember creams and ointments may be better than lotions in the winter if the skin is very dry.

5. Use a humidifier or place a pan of water on the radiator.


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