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4 Tips for Healthy Winter Skin

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Winter is coming.  But dry, itchy skin doesn’t have to come along with it. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center 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 Dr. Dommasch. “Sanitizer is as effective at killing most germs as washing, unless hands are really soiled.” If washing with soap and water, Dr. 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. Dr. Dommasch says the best way to treat chapped lips is something that 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,” said Dr. 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 Dr. 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.

Dr. Dommasch strongly recommends wearing an SPF 15 or higher for daily use and 30 or higher if skiing. “It’s pretty common to get a bad sunburn from skiing,” says Dr. Dommasch.  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 Dr. Dommasch. Known as the “itch that rashes,” eczema appears as itchy, red patches of dry, flaky skin. According to Dr. 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 with a towel post-bath as opposed to rubbing, which could lead to irritation.

Other helpful tips:

  • Use a humidifier at home.
  • Wear a soft base layer under coarse or itchy fabrics like wool.
  • Opt for gentle, fragrance-free cleansers for face and body.
  • Limit shower or 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. For more information, visit bidmc.org.