Protecting skin from winter weather

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In tonight’s Medical Watch–protecting our skin from the bitter cold. Fighting the dryness successfully comes down to a few simple rules–surprisingly, most of us are breaking them.

It has been relentless; one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record, wreaking havoc on our daily lives and bodies.

Dr. Samantha Conrad, a Northwestern Medicine dermatologist says, “The decrease in humidity is the biggest one so as the temperature falls we have decreased humidity both inside and outside, and so even with humidifiers it’s really hard to keep up. When the humidity level is so low it draws the moisture from the skin into the air.”

The dry air is actually sucking the moisture out of us.  You would think drinking water would help.

But Dr. Conrad explains, “Drinking water is always good for the body but unless you are truly dehydrated your skin is not going to be a reflection of the water you are drinking. The water we need in our skin has to be placed in there from external sources.”

It starts in the shower or bath.

She says, “When we get in the shower or bath we’re putting water into our skin, and the key is to lock it in.”

It’s a routine that has to take place within a minute or two of stepping out of the shower.

Dr. Conrad explains, “When the skin is still moist, it’s not dripping, but it would be hard for you to put clothes on.”

That’s the time to apply a moisturizer.  But keep it simple.  Dr. Conrad says there is no need for expensive products.  A few drug store finds do the job.

She says, “I like coconut oil because it doesn’t have any chemicals or preservatives in it and it’s inexpensive.”

Just a dollop will do.

Dr. Conrad says, “A really small amount is going to spread easily … (BETTER VIDEO AT 14:19)

But before you slather on the cream, make sure the soap you are using is not stripping away your skin’s natural barrier.

“We have a natural barrier that our body makes,” Dr. Conrad tells us, “What happens with many soaps, many detergent-based soaps, which is what most soaps are, we’re stripping that natural barrier.That skin barrier is not only something to retain humidity and moisture but it’s also anti-bacterial, anti-viral and so it’s a really important coating on our skin.”

Look for a non-soap cleanser or body was that does not contain Surfactants.

Dr. Conrad says, “It’s the surfactants that grab onto that molecule very strongly and as the surfactant is washed away so is all the moisture.”

Dr. Conrad says you can use the same routine for children.  But if your skin starts to crack, bleed, or seem infected, it is time to see a doctor.

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