The Doctor Answers: Soothe Winter Skin Woes
What can I do about dry skin this winter?
Robin Evans, MD Replies:
1. One of the best things you can do is to moisturize right after a shower or bath. The warm water opens pores and softens the skin allowing moisturizers to be easily absorbed. I like using a good quality nut oil (be sure you are not allergic) such as almond oil or jojoba oil. These all-natural emollients can be found in health food stores, but be sure they aren’t rancid. To prevent rancidity, store your oils away from light and heat. Please avoid mineral oil all together because it is derived from petroleum. After you’ve bathed, be sure you are out of the water on a mat so no oil gets on the shower or tub floor. Otherwise, someone could slip on the oily surface. After applying the natural nut oil, lightly pat the skin dry and apply a body lotion.
2. Use hand creams containing glycerin throughout the day especially after working in water doing household chores, dishes, using cleaning supplies, etc. Frequent contact with water combined with the cold weather can lead to cracks and dryness on the hands. Creams are most effective when applied to hands that are still damp and will moisturize better than lotions.
3. Wear gloves, hats, and cover up to keep the cold from chafing your skin. Avoid removing your gloves in frigid temperatures by postponing texting until you get inside. You can also look for fingerless gloves, a flip-top mitten, or texting gloves. Texting gloves use conductive cloth on the fingertips that work with a touch screen.
4. Drink lots of water and avoid excess caffeine. Coffee, tea, and sodas are very dehydrating. Cold weather is a stress on the body so it needs lots of fluids.
5. Take flax oil. Flax is demulcent—it has a slippery coating when wet—so it helps to moisturize from within. Please don’t overdo it or you may get too much softening of the stool.
6. Get plenty of Omega-3 EFAs—the good fat. Sources include grass-fed beef (as opposed to factory-farmed, corn/grain-fed beef), wild-caught fish, flax seed, and other sources. If you use a supplement, be sure you get a “clean” product subjected to third-party testing for heavy metals, PCBs, and other contaminants.
7. Use humidifiers in your home if possible to add moisture back into the air. Be sure they are properly cleaned because humidifiers can become contaminated with fungus or yeast.
8. Don't forget to wear sunscreen when doing outdoor work or sports such as skiing. Never forget that you can burn any time of year. Sunburn and sun damage will accentuate the skin dryness.
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