Keeping Winter's Chill Off Your Skin

woman in winter

Winter doesn't conjure up thoughts of warm, hydrated, plump skin... quite the opposite. We know the cold, dry air does a number on our hands, cheeks, and lips, but there are ways to 'winterize' your skin so that it looks and feels great no matter the temperature.

Defrost the sunscreen

Summer equals sunscreen to many of us. We want to prevent UV damage while the sun is shining, but we often forget about the SPF when it starts to get cold outside. Dermatologist Angie Koriakos, DO, on the Methodist Richardson medical staff, suggests keeping your sunscreen out, long after your summer vacation has ended.

"Protecting your skin from UV damage is a year-round commitment," Dr. Koriakos says.

Winter months aren't associated with intense sunlight and heat like the summer, but the UV rays are still there. Anyone can experience too much UV exposure during the winter and get burned. Dr. Koriakos tells her patients to be wary if they plan on taking a ski trip or visiting a place with more snow coverage.

"When skiing on a sunny day, the sun can reflect off of the white snow and lead to severe sun damage and burns," she says. "In many cases, these burns are worse than typical sunburns because the cool temperatures mask the feeling of the skin burning and can lead to worse damage."

Dr. Koriakos also says everyday activities can contribute to adverse skin effects. Going for a drive or sitting in your living room with large windows can lead to UV exposure. Those experiences may not have immediate effects, but they can lead to skin damage over a period of time if you aren't taking preventative measures.

It's important to put on some sunscreen before you step out for the day-even if it doesn't look sunny outside. To make sure you're keeping your skin safe and smooth, Dr. Koriakos says use a sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or stronger. Look for products containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for optimal protection. She recommends applying your sunscreen multiple times a day.

Other ways to keep your skin looking fresh

Sunscreen won't cure winter's aridness, so Dr. Koriakos also recommends:

  • Drinking lots of water
  • Using lukewarm water for baths or showers, and keep them short-no more than 10 minutes
  • Moisturizing skin, especially after wetting your skin: this will protect your skin from experiencing too much itchiness or dryness.
  • Hydrating lips with ointment

Asteatotic eczema or "winter's itch" is pervasive during this time of the year. It is often seen around your shins and lower legs. Hand dermatitis is also something else to watch out for. Your hands are particularly susceptible to becoming dry in the winter and getting "fissures," or cracks in your skin.

If you do experience either one of those conditions, consult your primary care physician. He or she can work with you and help you treat it with the aid of topical medications and hand creams.

So, don't forget to protect your skin-no matter the season! It's important to take care of it, year-round. We have many dermatologists on our medical staff to help you fight the winter's cold.

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