Protecting Your Skin From the Winter Cold

A few months back, I got in touch with an amazing blogger who just so happens to be a dermatologist! Wiggin Lee of Prescription for Style, shares with us some winter weather skin care secrets!

Skin Care for the Chilly Air

The key to keeping your skin smooth and soft is to keep it moisturized. Unfortunately, this can be really difficult for anyone with naturally dry skin or any degree of eczema (atopic dermatitis). During the winter time, especially, your skin is also more prone to becoming dehydrated, itchy, scaly, and even crack. So what is the best moisturizer out there?

With so many different brands (Aveeno, Cetaphil, Aquaphor, etc) along with the many types of moisturizers (lotions, creams, ointments, etc), choosing an over-the-counter product can be extremely confusing and daunting. In this post, I will try my best to help you decide on what moisturizer to use and the best way to protect your skin from the cold winters.

Basics:

Our outer layer of our skin (the epidermis) is made up of several different layers and types of skin cells. The epidermis is responsible for retaining water, thermoregulation, and protection from trauma and infections. However, when this protective layer is under harsh conditions such the winter wind chill, frigid temperatures, blasting heaters, and dry weather, microscopic damage (tiny cracks, if you will) is made and water is loss more readily. Dry, damaged skin is then more prone to more microscopic damage and this can cause inflammation (redness) and itching. In order to keep the skin hydrated and smooth, it is important to 1) replenish the water and 2) seal the cracks and seal in the water. This is where moisturizers come into play.

Types of Moisturizers:

types_of_moisturizers

The different types of moisturizers (lotions, creams, ointments) actually ARE different. They are each unique percentages of water vs. oil. Determining which type of moisturizer works best for you is more important than any specific brand you use. **Sometimes creams are advertised as lotions and ointments as creams-this does not matter too much as long as the consistency works for you**

Lotions: >50% water, <50% oil 

Lotions are thinner than creams and usually come in a pump bottle or tube. They are light in consistency and quickly absorb into the skin after applying. While they aid in rehydrating the skin, they are less effective in sealing in the moisture. Most over-the-counter (available without a prescription at drugstores) moisturizers are lotions and they are great for mild to moderate dry skin. Many also have added fragrances which make them smell great, so if you are allergic to fragrances, please avoid these as a rash may result.

Suggested lotions: Aveeno daily moisturizing lotion, Cetaphil Restoraderm skin restoring moisturizer

Creams: 50% water, 50% oil

Creams are much thicker than lotions and usually come in tubes (where you squeeze it out like toothpaste) or jars because they are too thick to pump. Creams are a great option for moderate to severe dry skin as it works to 1) rehydrate by replenishing water to the skin and 2) seal it in and prevent further moisture loss. This is probably the best type of moisturizer for protecting your skin during the winter.

Suggested creams: Aveeno skin relief moisture repair cream, Neutrogena hand cream, Philosophy-Hope In A Jar for Dry Skin

Ointments: 20% water, 80% oil

These products also come in tubes and have the consistency of Vaseline. They are the thickest type of moisturizer and can often feel greasy. Because they are only 20% water, they do not absorb well into the skin and also do not rehydrate the skin as much. Ointments are used more for the purposes of protecting the skin. It is best used to protect a wound (also decreases the formation of a scar), severely cracked skin, or chapped lips.

Suggested ointments: Aquaphor healing ointment (also great for chapped lips), plain Vaseline, Vaniply ointment

Last few tips:

1. Drink water

In addition to using products to hydrate your skin, don’t forget to hydrate your body! Drinking the recommended 8 cups of water a day (yes, that’s in 1 day!) is not only important for skin hydration, but also important for the rest of your health including your kidneys, heart, gastrointestinal system, and much more.

2. Take warm (not hot) showers

Don’t take super hot showers as they can end up damaging and drying your skin more. Warm water showers are recommended.

3. Apply your moisturizer after you shower

After you take a warm shower, pat (not scrub) dry with a towel, and apply your preferred moisturizer. This allows the water from the shower to be absorbed to its maximum capacity and seals it in. Hope this information helps keep your skin hydrated and smooth through the winter!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to contact me through the “contact and collaborations” tab on my blog, Prescription for Style.

Thank you for reading and Happy New Year!

Wiggin Lee, MD

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