Results of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) suggest that at least 81 million Americans experience dry, itchy or scaly skin during the winter months due to blasts of colder, dryer air, winter sun exposure and over-heated homes and offices.
“Winter is no friend to the skin any more than summer is,” says Rebecca A. Kazin, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology and director of the Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center. “Keeping warm is a priority, but it sucks the moisture out of your skin.”
Kazin’s prescription for preventing skin damage includes a heavy dose of common sense, some elements borrowed from summertime skin care, some easy dietary shifts and moisture, moisture, moisture.
- Proper moisturizing is job one, she says. “Switch to an oil-based cream or lotion and apply it often. “The more oil the better.”
- Use a humidifier at home and in the office and bag the long hot showers, however tempting. Take warm short ones, and slather on the moisturizer while skin is still damp to keep water in the upper layers of skin and decrease dryness and itching.
- Because frequent hand washing is recommended to prevent winter colds and flu, in winter “use hand soap that contains moisturizing ingredients or an alcohol-free hand sanitizer,” says Kazin.
- Don’t’ forget the sunscreen, the fruit and the water if you are outdoors even for brief periods, and especially if you’re skiing. “Sunscreen belongs not just on your face, but also your hands and lips. And because snow reflects 80 percent of sunlight, use SPF 15 or higher all winter,” Kazin says.
- Promote healthy skin with a diet of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and plums, and foods with essential fatty acids, such as salmon, walnuts and canola oil. Drink water and green tea in sufficient quantities to hydrate body cells and increase anti-inflammatory chemistry. If you are exercising, you need more fluid.
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