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Home Features Exclusives Burr! How to Protect Your Skin This Winter

Burr! How to Protect Your Skin This Winter

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Even soap beauties will want to hear this winter skin-care advice

...and Separate the Myths from the Facts About Dry Winter Skin

Soap operas boast some of the most beautiful women and handsome men in the entertainment industry.  Part of that is due to the medium in which soaps are shot.  Tape.  Video tape. It is unforgiving.  It exaggerates any and every flaw.  Those who appear on it, must be almost flawless.  Ergo, producers seek out the most beautiful people to star in their shows.  But wintertime takes its toll on everyone's skin. Even the fairest of soaps' gorgeous actors must take extra special care to care for their skin in winter.  Soapdom sought out the expertise of the American Academy of Dermotology for tips on how to keep our skin baby soft and smooth this winter. Here's what we found out...

In the winter, it feels good to wrap yourself up in heavy sweaters and turn up the heat in your house.  But have you given any thought to what's happening to your skin as it gets colder? That dry itchy skin you get in the winter can be a direct result of trying to keep warm.  However, winter skin can be prevented with a few simple changes to your skin care routine.

"The hot air inside your home or office can do more damage to your skin during the winter than the cold air outside," said dermatologist Stephen Webster, MD, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis.  "When the relative humidity inside drops below 60 percent, your skin begins to lose moisture, causing that dry, itchy, flaky skin that irritates so many during the winter months."

The skin is made up of several layers of cells.  The epidermis, the top layer of the skin, along with the oil glands, produce lipids, and these lipids keep the skin from losing moisture and make it soft and supple.  But your skin is constantly losing moisture into the air and every time you wash your skin, you strip away these lipids, letting more moisture evaporate and drying the skin.  However, in humid conditions, the skin can replenish itself by soaking up moisture from the air.  So, when the humidity drops, as it does in many places in the winter, your skin loses another opportunity to moisturize itself.  Couple that with the low humidity of indoor heating, and hotter showers and baths, and your skin can become dry and irritated.

It's these cold weather activities, such as taking hotter showers and turning up the heat that can cause dry skin during the winter.  To correct some of the misconceptions that can lead to dry winter skin, Dr. Webster provides the following facts:

Myth:   The hotter and longer the shower, the warmer I'll  feel.
Fact:    Sure, you'll feel warm, says Dr. Webster, but only for a few
             minutes.  As soon as you step out of the water, your skin begins
             to lose moisture because hot water removes natural oil from the
             skin, making it dry and itchy.  Bathe or shower in lukewarm --
             not hot -- water, and limit your showers to 5 to 10 minutes.

Myth:   Switching your brand of soap can "confuse" the skin, leading to
Fact:    All soaps have the potential to cause contact dermatitis,
             especially if you are allergic to certain ingredients in the
            soap, says Dr. Webster.  It is perfectly fine to use the same
             brand of soap throughout the year.  However, if you find your
             skin becoming dryer in the winter months, look for a milder soap
             that is fragrance-free.  In fact, many soaps today contain
             moisturizing ingredients, like oils and vitamins, which can be
             beneficial for your skin all year round.

:   Completely dry your skin before applying lotions and creams.
Fact:    Dr. Webster recommends applying moisturizers to skin within three
             minutes of stepping out of the shower or bath.  Putting on a
             cream, ointment or lotion helps trap the water in the upper
             layers of the skin and decreases dryness and itching.  If you're
             concerned about greasiness, find a cream or lotion that has a
             lighter texture.

Since severely dry skin is less effective at providing a barrier against infection and can split and bleed, creating a greater chance for an infection, Dr. Webster also recommends the following tips to prevent winter skin problems:

Remember, snow can reflect more than 80 percent of the sun's damaging ultraviolet radiation, so be sure to always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.  Reapply it every two hours for maximum benefit.

  1. Don't forget to protect your lips.  Look for a lip balm with an SPF of 15 to help prevent chapped lips.
  2. Consider purchasing a humidifier to keep the humidity in your home higher during the winter.
  3. Dab petroleum jelly on problem areas to seal in moisture and heal very dry skin.
  4. After washing your hands, immediately put on hand cream to seal in moisture.

"The winter months don't have to be torture for your skin," says Dr. Webster.  "Remember to place a greater emphasis on moisturizing and visit your dermatologist if your skin becomes infected or if you don't see any improvement in your skin."

The American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations.  With a membership of over 14,000 dermatologists worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin.  For more information, contact the AAD at 1-888-462-DERM or www.aad.org .

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