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Winter Skin Care

Cold winter weather can cause a person’s skin to become dry, but taking some precautions can make a difference.

Many people suffer from very dry skin during the winter as a result of cold, dry weather outside and a lack of humidity inside.  A person’s skin doesn’t have enough of a natural coating of oil to seal in the moisture and protect against the dryness says Dr. Stephen Stone, professor of dermatology at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.  He explains the areas that are most affected.

SOUND BITE:   “. . . the areas that are most directly exposed to the outside air are the areas that dry the most.  And that’s why when you go outside for a walk, your lips get dry, your cheeks and nose get dry, and if you are not wearing gloves, you hands and your cuticles get dry.”

Dr. Stone says another cause of dry skin in winter is taking long hot showers or baths.  Although the heat of the water feels good at the moment, it actually damages the skin by taking away the body’s own oil.  This is especially damaging to older people because their oil glands produce less than when they were younger.  He explains the best way to moisturize the skin.

SOUND BITE:  “I do recommend that people use moisturizers. And a moisturizer by definition is an ointment, a cream or a lotion.  And the only difference between a cream and lotion is the amount of water that is in it.  Lotions spread better, but you have to use a little more of them to get that layer of protective cream to stay on the skin.”

Dr. Stone recommends seeing a family physician or dermatologist if a person’s skin has areas of redness or if a person is scratching to the point of the skin bleeding.  If the skin is red or inflamed, a person could be suffering from eczema or psoriasis, which may need to be treated with prescription medication.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.