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Protect skin from outdoor cold and indoor heat

12/29/2017, 12:02 p.m.
Although a long, hot shower or snuggling in a heavy sweater and other warm clothing in a toasty room might ...
Treatment from the SkinGym at South Street Seaport

Although a long, hot shower or snuggling in a heavy sweater and other warm clothing in a toasty room might initially feel wonderful in winter, these measures to keep warm and comfortable are not wonderful for your skin. Humidity often drops in winter, and indoor heating also produces dry air. Drier air, hot water and even heavy, bulky clothing and the aging process, can cause your skin to lose moisture or generate less of its own natural moisture. The result can be dry, itchy, irritated and flaky skin that no longer feels comfortable.

Skin is the largest organ in the body. Skin serves as a protective barrier, keeping harmful substances away from tissue, bones and blood vessels. It cools the body in hot weather by releasing water in the form of perspiration, which evaporates from the skin. Be good to your skin this winter by protecting and moisturizing it.

The Medical Society of the State of New York adapted the following recommendations from material provided online by the American Academy of Dermatology and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Humidify and moisturize

Keep your home warm, but not too hot.

Consider increasing the humidity and counteracting the dry heat in your home by adding a humidifier.

Avoid long, hot showers or baths. Keep showers and baths short and use warm, not hot, water. You might choose to bathe or shower less often, especially during the dry winter months.

For normal skin, regular bar soap and water will clean the skin efficiently, removing dirt, oil, sweat and dead skin cells.

For dry skin, soap may strip away too much of the skin’s natural oils, leaving the skin feeling dry and tight. You may want to try a soap containing fatty materials such as cocoa butter or lanolin, or a cleansing lotion or cream that will clean without removing too much oil.

For oily skin, soaps that are made for oily skin will help remove excess oil.

To avoid irritating the skin, scrub gently when washing.

When drying off, gently pat the skin dry to avoid irritation and redness.

Immediately after bathing and gently patting the skin dry, apply a moisturizer. The moisturizer should help to make the skin feel softer, prevent further water loss and allow the skin to rehydrate itself from within.

Choose a moisturizer that suits you and makes your skin feel comfortable. Check the ingredients. Lotions that contain a lot of alcohol will make the skin drier. Look for lotions and creams that contain any of the following: petrolatum, mineral oil, lineolic acid, ceramides, dimethicone or glycerin.

Reapply moisturizer throughout the day, such as right after washing your hands.

If a normal moisturizing regimen does not improve your dry skin, you might have a more serious skin condition and need to visit a dermatologist, a physician who has had additional training in conditions of the skin, hair, nails and mucous membranes. To obtain a referral to a dermatologist, contact your local county medical society.