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Eight tips to avoid winter skin woes

by Denise Parrish - Winter air can rob your skin of moisture, making it dry, even brittle. But you can avoid winter skin woes, says Dr. Bette C. Potter, a dermatologist at Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center, by following these eight tips:

  1. Take warm showers. A long, relaxing, hot bath or shower feels great on a cold winter day, but hot water strips the skin’s natural oils. Instead, bathe in warm water. – Limit showers to 10 minutes and once a day to retain moisture.
  1. Choose your soap wisely. Use a gentle, fragrance-free, moisturizing formula, avoiding strong, antibacterial, deodorant soaps, which generally contain irritating ingredients and fragrances. Use a minimal amount of soap to avoid dryness.
  1. Avoid toners and astringents. Most contain skin-drying alcohol. Cream-based facial cleansers are a better option. For women, use a moisturizing makeup, or use a moisturizing facial sunblock that can be used with any makeup.
  1. Keep skin moisturized. Moisturize your body immediately after washing. Pat dry your skin, then use an oil-based or ointment moisturizer. Ointments combine 80 percent oil and 20 percent water to form a protective layer on the skin that is more effective than creams or lotions. Avoid citrus fragrances in body lotions, which can burn or irritate the skin in cold weather.
  1. Protect your hands. Hands need extra protection because of frequent washing. Avoid excessively hot water for hand washing, and apply hand cream after every washing to prevent chapping, cracking and bleeding. Use non-irritating gloves when outdoors to protect hands from wind damage. Also, gloves made for dish-washing offer tremendous protection when doing chores. Look for non-latex gloves paired with cotton glove liners to absorb the sweat, and wash the liners after each use.
  1. Use a humidifier. Humidifiers, available at pharmacies and retail stores, help replace the moisture that evaporates in dry winter air. Use them in high-use rooms such as a family room or bedroom, aiming for 30 to 50 percent humidity.
  1. Dress in layers. Wear soft, breathable materials against your skin, then pull on a warm sweater, removing clothing during the day as needed to prevent overheating. Avoid direct contact with wool if you’re prone to eczema l.
  1. Use sunscreen. Yes, you can sunburn in winter. Use lip balm and sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 and a long-acting UVA block when outdoors. Look for sunscreens with helioplex or mexoryl in the ingredients. Avoid extended sun exposure if you are taking medications that heighten sun sensitivity. Check with your doctor about the medicines you take.

Editorial Note: Dr. Bette C. Potter, an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Georgia Health Sciences University and a dermatologist at Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center, specializes in cosmetic skin care, including Botox, fillers, laser hair removal, chemical peels and scar repair. Her more than 20 years of expertise also includes acne and skin cancer treatment.

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