Dry skin: Winter cold, indoor heating rob your body of natural moisterizers

January 19, 2001

Dry skin: Winter cold, indoor heating rob your body of natural moisterizers

By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

Dry skin prevention steps

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Wash face with lukewarm water and mild facial soap.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 during the winter and a lip balm with SPF.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Do you have oily skin? Wait 20 minutes after washing your face before applying moisturizer. If your face doesn't feel tight after that time, no moisturizer is needed.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Don't overuse products containing alpha-hydroxy acids. They exfoliate the top layer of skin, but leave the new layer unprotected.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Avoid deodorant soaps because they can dry out skin.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> While shaving, use lotion or hair conditioner instead of shaving cream.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Apply petroleum jelly to problem areas.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Purchase a humidifier to add humidity to your home.


- Sources: American Academy of Dermatology's Web site,

The cozy warmth of home that envelops you on a cold, winter evening is actually a robber.

Indoor heat steals what little humidity exists during the winter months. Just ask your skin.


Sixty-percent humidity is ideal for skin, but heat can diminish the moisture indoors to less than 40 percent, says Dr. James A. Schiro, a Hagerstown dermatologist.

In low humidity, moisture in the air and on the skin is absorbed quickly, says Dr. Paul J. Honig, a dermatologist at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia.

The secret to preventing cracked, peeling skin is to trap moisture in.

People are programmed to reach for lotion when their skin is dry, but many lotions contain alcohol, which promotes further drying, Schiro said.

What skin needs is oil to seal in the body's water so it can heal from the inside, he said.

Washing the skin removes its protective oil, Schiro said. But since bathing is a necessary evil, there are ways to combat its parching effect.

For the face, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends washing with lukewarm water and a mild facial soap.

When showering, use lukewarm water for only 10 to 15 minutes, the Academy suggested. If you feel the need to take a hot bath, add oils to the water.

The Academy recommends applying moisturizer immediately after a bath or shower while skin is wet to trap water in the upper layers of the skin.

Schiro suggests using ointments that are petroleum-based on the hands. Pure, organic oil seals the skin and helps repel irritants, he said. Don't apply too much, though, or your hands will be greasy.

Those who wash their hands frequently should use moisturizing cream and a cloth towel, Honig said.

"Paper towels are really horrible for skin," Honig said, because they are abrasive and may tear open dry skin.

Do not use products containing alpha-hydroxy acids on skin that is cracked, Honig adds.

For the face, which has more oil glands than hands, use an oil-free product that won't clog pores, Schiro says.

The lips

One of the greatest gifts you can give your lips is to stop licking them, Honig said.

Lips don't need an oil-free treatment because they don't have pores to be plugged, Schiro said.

Petroleum jelly is a good product for the lips, Schiro said. Lip balms are OK too, as long as wearers aren't allergic to the additives that enhance flavor and scent, he said.

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