Keep Your Skin Soft in Cold Climes

Here's advice on how to keep it moist during the winter months

SATURDAY, Nov. 29, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Many of you take care to prepare your homes and cars to withstand the rigors of winter. What about your skin?

You need to adjust your skin care and moisturizing routine to protect your skin from becoming dry and itchy during the winter, says the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

This isn't just a cosmetic or comfort issue. Severely dry skin can split and bleed and become less effective as a barrier against infection.

Cold, dry winter air, low humidity caused by indoor heating, and hot showers and baths are all factors that rob your skin of moisture during the winter.

The skin on your face is especially vulnerable because it's the only part of your body that's constantly exposed to the elements during winter. To protect your face, the AAD recommends that you wash with mild facial soap and lukewarm, not hot, water.

Don't overuse products that contain alpha-hydroxy acids. They exfoliate the top layer of skin, which is good for dry skin, but they also leave a new layer of skin that has no protection against bitter winter weather.

Use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 during the winter to protect yourself from snow-reflected ultraviolet light. Don't forget to use lip balm with sunscreen to protect your lips.

Here are some more general winter skin care tips from the AAD:

  • Shower or bathe in lukewarm, not hot, water. Hot water removes natural oil from the skin.
  • Limit showers to 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Use bath oils if you do take a hot bath. Use mild soaps. Deodorant soaps are more likely to dry your skin.
  • Put moisturizer on your skin immediately after a bath or shower, while your skin is still wet. It helps trap moisture in your upper skin layers.
  • Instead of shaving cream, use lotion or hair conditioner to shave.
  • Petroleum jelly is good for problem areas. It seals in moisture to help heal very dry skin.
  • After you wash your hands, use hand cream to seal in moisture.
  • Use a humidifier in your home to keep humidity levels higher during winter.

More information

There's more about winter skin care at Duke University.

SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology
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