Forget blizzard warnings. Winter should come with another weather advisory—rough skin conditions ahead. Dry skin is common throughout the year but it can become chronic in the winter, especially in those who spend a lot of time outside.

Intact skin is normally dry, supple, and acidic (pH4-6) and has a “brick and mortar” configuration. Outdoor cold air mixed with heated indoor air from furnaces causes low humidity. The lack of moisture in the air causes the skin to lose critical moisture as well.

The U. S. National Library of Medicine describes the skin as the largest organ in the human body, something many people overlook. It’s what maintains hydration and keeps harmful microbes out to prevent infections. It makes Vitamin D in sunlight and also maintains your overall body temperature. The cold weather also can severely worsen skin conditions like Eczema or psoriasis.

How to Keep Your Skin Healthy in the Cold

To equip you with the right knowledge, Catholic Health’s Mary Applegate, RN, CWON, wound ostomy nurse and wound care educator, offers some winter skin care tips.

1 Use appropriate products for routine cleansing. Conquering winter skin concerns requires establishing an acidic environment for the skin. Skin is naturally acidic. Avoid harsh cleansers and soap (alkaline products) that remove skin lipids, increases water loss, and compromises the protective “acid mantle” of the skin. Unfortunately, many soaps are highly alkaline, which is why hospitals use a pH or “potential hydrogen” balanced soap.

2 Moisturize, moisturize, MOISTURIZE. Moisturizers can be used to hydrate intact skin and replace oils. Products with emollients will soften the skin. This is particularly important in dry, freezing weather.

3 Keep a bottle of hand cream in your purse or on your desk.
Avoid cracked hands; keep a mini bottle of lotion on hand.

4 Keep it quick in the shower. While a long, hot bath or shower may seem super appealing after braving the cold, it might not be the best thing for your skin. Frequent bathing removes the oils and leave the skin much more vulnerable to irritants and pathogens.

5 Don’t forget sunscreen even in the winter. The sun’s harmful rays are just as strong and damaging despite what your thermometer says.

If you notice sustained worsening of your skin condition (Eczema, psoriasis, etc.), or experience rashes or wounds that are not healing, contact your primary physician.

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