The strong rays of the summer sun may have faded, but before you stash that sunscreen and worry less about protecting your skin, consider this: Winter air is a lot less humid, which can make your skin uncomfortably dry and cause it to itch, crack and become irritated. And when it snows, your chance of sunburn actually increases — that’s because just like sand and water, snow both reflects and intensifies the sun’s rays. Here are four strategies to help keep your skin hydrated and healthy this season:
Moisturize after patting dry. The way hydrating creams work is by trapping existing moisture on your skin; to do that, you need to apply moisturizer within a few minutes of gently toweling off your face, hands or body. Ointments and creams are more effective and less irritating than lotions; choose one that contains an oil (such as olive or jojoba), the American Academy of Dermatologists recommends; other ingredients that help soothe dry skin include lactic acid, urea, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, mineral oil and petrolatum.
Slather on sunscreen, every day. Choose one that offers broad-spectrum, SPF-30 or higher and water-resistant protection, and apply a generous amount to all exposed areas before you head outdoors. Not only will that help protect you from skin cancer, but new research suggests using sunscreen daily can reduce the signs of skin aging.
Use a humidifier. When the heat kicks on, the air inside can become very dry and make itchy, irritated skin feel worse. A humidifier can help replace moisture indoors.
Do regular self-exams. Most skin cancers are easily treated when found early, so check your body from every angle, and see your doctor if you spot any moles or skin lesions that are asymmetrical, irregularly shaped, vary in color, are wider than a standard pencil eraser, or ones that change in size, color and shape. You’ll also want to see a dermatologist if your skin is particularly dry and you have trouble finding relief — you might need a prescription ointment or cream, or it could be a sign of a skin condition that needs treatment.
— The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.