Easy steps to treat winter skin

In the winter, a drop in humidity and temperature coupled with a higher thermostat setting at home results in drier air. For most people, dry air can lead to dry, itchy skin. Dermatologists at Duke University Medical Center, however, have tips to avoid and manage dry skin during the cold months.

While the elderly are more at risk for dry skin and itch because the skin loses moisture with age, there are several things anyone can do to ward off uncomfortable chaffing and cracking, according to Sarah Myers, M.D., associate professor in the Division of Dermatology.

“It’s important to try and control some parts of your immediate environment,” Myers said. “The goal is to keep as much moisture in the skin as possible to prevent any itching, irritation or redness.”

Some of the best ways to avoid dry skin, Myers said, are:

–using humidifiers throughout the house or at least in the bedroom
–wearing protective gloves to minimize exposure to the elements
–taking shorter, cooler showers instead of longer, hotter ones
–after showering and before drying off completely, applying a moisturizer or emollient to the skin

People with very dry skin should use thicker or oil-based moisturizers and ointments and apply these creams liberally on fingertips and knuckles, Myers said. It is also best to apply any balms at night. Myers also recommended using gentler, non-deodorant soaps and using moisturizing shampoos and conditioners on hair that is frequently curled or blow-dried. To protect lips, use a Vaseline-based emollient.

Dry-skin sufferers should seek physician assistance if over-the-counter products do not relieve the itching or if their skin begins to crack and break down. The appearance of red patches, cracks that will not heal and crusting of the skin also signal the need for an appointment with the doctor.

From Duke University Medical Center

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