Letter: How to Care for Your Skin in Winter

CE Winter isn’t necessarily a wonderland for the skin.

That’s because our skin barrier, the uppermost layer of skin, doesn’t retain as much moisture during colder months. Dry, winter air can disrupt the barrier. And some patients truly feel it!

For some, dryness means not only irritations, but flare-ups of certain common conditions,
including rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis.

We can support and protect the skin barrier with some thoughtful planning and carefully
selected products that help counteract and retain lost moisture.

Moisturize. If your skin becomes dry or flaky during winter, you may need to change your
moisturizer to a slightly heavier one. Look for gentle products that replace moisture and don’t inadvertently further dry skin, such as those that contain ceramides or hyaluronic acid.

Both ingredients can help balance and restore skin moisture, counteract dryness in the
environment, and keep skin soft. These products should come in jars; those that come in
pumps typically contain more alcohol in them that can further dry your skin. To protect your scalp from dryness and cold, wear a hat that covers your head and ears. Try using a gentle shampoo that contains argan oil or avocado oil to help moisturize and hydrate your scalp. Conditioners that contain glycerin also can help retain moisture.

Hydrate—from the outside. Though we’re often told to drink water as part of our skincare
routines, more research needs to be conducted into whether that benefit truly exists. We do know, however, that hydrating our environments can help combat seasonal dryness.
Home and office heating systems dry the air, so our skin can need relief. Try using a cool-water humidifier, especially where you sleep. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean and change the water frequently to avoid the buildup of harmful dirt or mold.

Hot showers do not help. They may feel like a good way to warm our bodies in winter,
however, hot water further dries the skin. Try something gentler: short, warm showers; pat
dry skin afterwards instead of rubbing it; and immediately massage moisturizer into your skin while it’s still damp.

Use sun protection. Yes, even in winter. Just as you would during sunnier months, your skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

Wear (polarized) sunglasses consistently to protect your eyes, especially if you have light eyes and fair skin. Sunlight reflects off snow and ice, increasing exposure to UV radiation and increasing the risk of developing eye problems. It can also damage the eyelids, the skin around the eyes, cornea, and lens.

Call your dermatologist. If you’ve consistently tried over-the-counter treatments and still are experiencing itching, flaking or blotchiness, it’s time to call your dermatologist. It’s also important to reach out if discomfort or pain from winter skin conditions keep you up at night.

Winter weather certainly can be challenging for your skin, but simple and practical strategies should keep you on track to enjoy the season.

Raman Kevin Madan, MD is a board-certified dermatologist at Northwell Health Physician
Partners in Glen Cove and Huntington.


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