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Protect your skin this winter

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How’s your skin holding up to winter? Colder temperatures outside and warmer temperatures inside make the air dry, which affects our skin. The body’s largest organ, our skin protects underlying muscles, bones, ligaments and other organs. 

That dry air leads to itchy, cracked, raw or sore skin. The National Institutes of Health recommends using a humidifier indoors and bathing in warm water, as opposed to hot water. Warm water does not strip the skin’s protective oils as quickly. Experts also recommend using scented soaps sparingly.

After bathing, Weiss dermatologist Natalia Anikin, M.D., tells patients to apply a thick, greasy moisturizer, such as Eucerin or Aveeno. Keeping your lips moisturized is also important, and for that Dr. Anikin recommends Aquaphor Healing Ointment by Eucerin.

“It’s important to get plenty of vitamins A and E either in supplements or in these products,” she said.

Though many products claim to reverse aging, these nutrients truly work to keep skin healthy naturally. UV rays from the sun (and from sun rays bouncing off snow in winter) create free radicals in the skin. These toxins attack lipids, proteins and DNA, depleting the collagen that makes skin smooth and altering cells. The result: wrinkles, age spots and cancer.

Vitamin E—considered an anti-oxidant—fights these toxins. Found in root vegetables, tomatoes and nuts, the nutrient keeps cell membranes healthy and recharges other nutrients in the body so they can do their jobs.

It also regulates vitamin A, which helps keep skin and mucous membranes moist. Vitamin A has antioxidant properties, protecting cells and tissues by neutralizing free radicals.

By eating a wide variety of foods, you will likely get a healthy dose of vitamin A. These foods include liver, root vegetables, broccoli, spinach, cheddar cheese, eggs, apricot, mango and milk.

In addition to dry skin, Dr. Anikin says viral infections are more common during winter. These include Herpes simplex and Pityriasis rosea. Often beginning as respiratory infections, these viruses spread in a similar way as the flu, through droplets from coughing, sneezing or breathing. The viruses appear on the skin as rashes—red eruptions near the mouth or on the trunk of the body. The rash may itch or feel sensitive and may last several weeks or months.

“A lot of people think they’re having an allergic reaction, but it’s not true,” Dr. Anikin said.

To prevent infection, she recommends avoiding crowds, especially for older people. And remember: keep hydrating and moisturizing.

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