by Dr. Stephanie Cotell
(An excerpt from an article originally published in White Fence Living Magazine.)
As the temperatures go down, and we turn on the heat in our homes, a change in humidity occurs and our skin may become dry and itchy or cracked. While dry skin isn’t life threatening, it can be uncomfortable, and is a common condition that brings patients into the office throughout the winter.
In fact, the most common cause of itchy skin is dry skin. This ‘winter skin’ may be preventable with a few steps that should become habitual. It may be a surprise that one of the most common things to damage our protective skin barrier is those long hot showers that feel so good in winter! Consider limiting your shower to ten minutes or less and keeping the temperature lukewarm. Apply a moisturizing cream immediately after bathing (follow the ‘three-minute rule’.) Damp skin helps the cream penetrate into the dermis and lock in moisture. If a moisturizing cream is not applied immediately, the moisture from your shower will evaporate and you will be dryer than when you stepped into the shower! Think about a muddy river bank on a hot, sunny day. When the water evaporates, dry cracked surfaces appear.
Products to Consider to Prevent Dry Skin
Use thicker, cream moisturizers rather than thinner lotions. I also recommend soap free cleansers be used liberally, instead of deodorant soaps, which are best saved for the groin and armpits. A humidifier is another effective way to increase moisture in your home environment if you experience dry skin or dry lips.
Things to Avoid to Help Keep Skin Moist
Other tips that may help prevent dry or itchy skin are avoidance of scented bubble baths, fragranced moisturizers, harsh deodorant soaps, hot tubs, and fragrance in laundry detergents or fabric softeners. Wool clothing may irritate some individuals as well.
Monitor Your Changing Skin
As a dermatologist, I have always been fascinated with how skin functions and reacts to its environment. Changes in the skin can reveal a lot about our health. Rashes, hives, and itching may be a manifestation of an allergic reaction, a skin infection, or an autoimmune disease. A changing mole may be a sign of skin cancer. The skin is very responsive to its environment; think goosebumps, chills, and itchiness.
Did you know that skin accounts for roughly 15% of our body weight? Skin also acts as your body’s thermostat. You can sweat up to a quart of fluid a day to cool your body, and your pores become smaller in the cold to help retain heat. And this may be the most surprising fact of all: your body creates a new layer of skin every 28 days.
Renée Rouleau once said: “Be good to your skin. You’ll wear it every day for the rest of your life.”
Call Northeast Dermatology for any and all skin concerns and issues. We can help!