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Published on November 19, 2014

As Temperatures Drop, Need For Skin Care Rises

MU Health Care dermatologist offers tips during National Healthy Skin Month

National Epilepsy Awareness Month

COLUMBIA, Mo. — In many ways, skin is like a wooden deck. Both require attention and care to keep them moisturized and healthy, and cold weather can be especially hard on both.

“Just like a freshly stained deck keeps water and harmful ultraviolet rays from the wood, the natural oils at the surface of our skin act as a barrier to naturally repel irritants and allergens,” said Nicholas Golda, M.D., a University of Missouri Health Care dermatologist. “When these oils are gone, our skin becomes dry and it’s more prone to be irritated, resulting in redness and itchy, flakey skin. It’s especially important for people to take care of their skin this time of year.”

November is National Healthy Skin Month, and MU Health Care dermatologists are raising awareness about dry skin care during colder months. As winter begins to set in, many individuals experience dry skin. Colder temperatures and a dry climate can cause the skin to lose too much oil or water, often causing dry, flakey, split skin. People with severe dry skin can develop a rough leather-like texture, and these issues only worsen for individuals with eczema, psoriasis or other skin conditions.

“Many people use harsh soaps to clean their skin,” said Golda, who also serves as an assistant professor of dermatology at the MU School of Medicine. “These soaps may be appealing because of their fresh scent, but they may actually be damaging your skin by stripping away its natural moisture. It’s like using paint stripper to clean your deck — your deck may look good after you’re done, but it’s ultimately going to be damaged by the environment faster. When selecting soap for bathing or hand-washing, try to use a product labeled for use on sensitive skin or speak to your dermatologist for suggestions.”

Restoring lost moisture can make skin softer, smoother and less likely to crack. Golda recommends the following to help improve dry skin in winter months:

  • Avoid hot water: A hot shower in the winter may feel nice, but hot water solubilizes the skin’s oils and strips the skin of moisture.
  • Use a mild soap: Deodorant bars and strong soaps can remove natural oils from the skin. Fragrances can further irritate damaged skin. Mild, fragrance-free cleansers generally moisturize and keep you clean without removing natural oils.
  • Moisturize after baths and showers: Spraying mineral oil on your skin or applying a cream or petrolatum-based moisturizer within three minutes of bathing helps retain moisture.
  • Soothe chapped lips: Apply a lip balm that contains petroleum jelly before going to bed each night and try to avoid persistent lip licking.
  • Use a humidifier to keep the air in your home moist.
  • Cover up in cold weather: Wear a scarf and gloves outdoors to prevent chapped lips and hands.

“While many of these tips can help protect and repair dry skin, it’s important for individuals with severe dry skin or existing skin conditions to see a dermatologist if they’re experiencing itching or pain from their dry skin that is not helped with these conservative measures,” Golda said. “In these cases, we can look for underlying medical causes of the skin irritation and prescribe medications that can be very effective at relieving itching, redness and swelling.”

For more information on healthy skin care or to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist, visit http://muhealth.org/dermatology or call (573) 882-4800.

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