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Friday, May 1, 2009

Tips on Caring for Your Skin

Winter Showers

A shower can add water to your skin -- as long as you keep it short and sweet. Long, hot showers can actually draw water from your skin. Appealing as a hot shower on a cold morning may be, lukewarm water is a better choice. It won’t strip away skin’s natural oils.

Lock in Moisture After Your Bath

Right after you step out of the tub, pat skin dry and apply moisturizer to retain the water your skin just absorbed. A glycerin- or hyaluronic acid-based moisturizer can increase the amount of water that’s drawn into your skin. Baby oil (mineral oil) is also a good choice, because it prevents water from evaporating from your skin. Don’t stop there: Liberally re-apply moisturizer throughout the day, especially to troublesome dry skin patches.

Plug in a Humidifier

It’s cold outside! So you’re staying inside, with the heat on. That warm, dry air can mean parched, dry skin. Use a humidifier to restore moisture to the air. You can find inexpensive models at most drug stores. Put one in your bedroom; better yet, invest in two or three and place them strategically around your home to stave off irritated, itchy skin this winter.

Lube Your Locks

Protect your hair this winter by shampooing every other day instead of daily. Shampoos and excess shampooing can strip hair of moisture. Use warm water and a mild shampoo with sunscreen. Apply extra conditioner to keep your hair hydrated, shiny, and soft. Don’t overstyle with the blow dryer or flat iron. And protect your hair from the elements by wearing a hat.

Winter Sunscreen Required

Think you can’t get a sunburn in winter? Wrong. Skiers and other winter athletes are at special risk of sunburn, because snow reflects sunlight. In fact, it bounces 80% of the sun's rays back to us, compared to less than 20% for sand and surf. Even if you’re not hitting the slopes, you still need the protection of a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more. Apply daily, and reapply at least every two hours if you’re outside.

Bundle Up Against Frostnip

Frostnip -- a mild form of frostbite -- tends to affect the earlobes, cheeks, nose, fingers, and toes. Signs of frostnip include pale skin, numbness, or tingling in the affected area. Avoid frostnip by dressing warmly -- including hat, ear muffs, and gloves.The best treatment is to re-warm the affected areas; although frostnip is uncomfortable, it doesn’t cause any damage to skin.

Be Alert for Frostbite

Frostbite is more serious and can cause lasting damage. Deeper tissues freeze, causing skin to become hard, pale, and cold. It may ache but lack sensitivity to touch. As the area thaws, it becomes red and painful. Hands, feet, nose and ears are most vulnerable, but any body part can be affected. Treat frostbite by getting to a warm place, wrapping affected areas in sterile dressings (separate fingers and toes) and going to an emergency

Beat the Itch of Winter Skin

Dry winter skin can be incredibly itchy. Beat itchy skin by taking a lukewarm bath with oatmeal or baking soda, reapplying your moisturizer frequently, and steering clear of wool and other rough fabrics. If these techniques don’t make a difference, see a dermatologist. You may have an underlying condition such as eczema or psoriasis that requires different treatment.

Show Eczema the Exit

Eczema is an umbrella term for different kinds of skin inflammation. It is marked by dry, reddened skin that itches or burns. When skin becomes dry and irritated in winter, eczema can flare. Stay one step ahead by moisturizing frequently with an oil-based ointment that contains sunscreen. Sweating and overheating can also trigger the itch/scratch cycle, so dress in easy-to-peel-off layers. Ask your dermatologist about prescription treatments.

Put Psoriasis in its Place

Psoriasis is more than dry skin. It’s caused when the immune system misfires and speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells. Dry air, lack of sunlight, and colder temperatures can make psoriasis worse. Follow tips for dry skin: short, lukewarm showers, lots of moisturizer, and humidifiers throughout the house. Ask your dermatologist about phototherapy, which uses ultraviolet light B (UVB) rays to slow the growth of skin cells.

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