Dr. J. Hibler, Board-Certified Dermatologist, Answers Our Questions on How to Keep Our Skin Healthy This Winter
Many of us enjoy winter activities outdoors. Even if you are a homebody, cuddling up under a warm blanket during these colder days, we can all feel the effects of the drier, colder air on our skin. We talked to Dr. Hibler at Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute to see what tips he might have for us.
Q: Why does skin get affected by winter weather?
A: Typically, colder weather brings lower humidity than warmer temperatures, so the moisture in our skin drops significantly in winter months. This is especially true in higher elevations, where the wind can dry out the skin even more. Add to that the drying effects of us turning up the heat in our homes, and our skin can start to feel the change in the weather.
Q: What is a winter rash, and what are its symptoms?
A: “Winter rash” is simply dry skin that has become so dry that it no longer holds its water and moisture. This can lead to your skin getting very itchy and flaky. Other symptoms you might encounter include redness, rough patches, and even cracking. You may experience this during the cold winter months even if your skin is not ordinarily dry. It can ultimately turn into eczema, requiring medical intervention.
Q: Are there treatments available for winter rash?
A: Prevention is key heading into the cooler, more arid months and environments. Beefing up your moisturizing routine is essential – applying moisturizing creams after bathing and throughout the day as needed, using an SPF lip balm, and sunscreen as always. Simple things like improving the humidity in your home by using a humidifier can be helpful. Cover up when you go outside, especially if the temperature has dropped and it is windy – gloves, hats, and scarves can protect your skin from the elements. When winter rash/itch gets out of control, a prescription-grade anti-inflammatory salve such as a topical steroid course can correct it. There are plenty of other non-steroidal options as well.
Q: Which other skin conditions are affected by this change in season?
A: Atopic dermatitis and psoriasis are debilitating skin conditions that typically worsen in winter. Keratosis pilaris is a prevalent, less severe condition that presents in all ages with itchy bumps on the backs of arms, and it can worsen during cooler months.
Q: How are these conditions treated when they flare up?
A: Calming the skin with topical anti-inflammatory creams, lotions, and ointments is a mainstay treatment for winter rash and other eczemas that worsen over winter. In severe cases, skin breakdown can lead to infection, requiring antibiotics and sometimes oral anti-inflammatory medications such as prednisone. Consult with your Board-Certified Dermatologist to ensure you do all you can to keep your condition under control during the winter months.
Q: Can we do things to prevent flare-ups during the cold weather?
A: It does go back to humidity, moisturization, and keeping the skin healthy and hydrated. I have a “skin care tips” information sheet I provide most of my patients, and the final paragraph explains the need to go above and beyond regular skin care routines when one lives in or visits high desert or mountain locations.
Q: What are your best skin care tips to help keep our skin healthy through the winter?
A: I think the three most simple, effective things one can do in our arid environment are:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. This is beneficial for your skin, and all other body organs benefit from being well-hydrated.
- Up your moisturization game while bathing – use a moisturizing bar soap, keep the water temperature closer to lukewarm (hot water will also dry your skin), and apply a moisturizing cream instead of a lotion, right after drying your body.
- Apply sunscreen before and during outdoor activities. As usual, I do not recommend you leave the house without sunscreen but remember that in the winter, the sun’s UV rays are stronger in higher elevations and reflective in the snow and ice. Try sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or above, not forgetting to apply it behind your ears, close to your scalp, and the back of your neck.
About the Dermatology Provider
Dr. John Hibler is a Board-Certified Dermatologist at Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute’s Incline Village location. As an osteopathic physician, he believes in treating the symptoms and the “whole body.” As such, he uses the latest, most advanced biologic medications and proven traditional, holistic, and natural remedies. You can book an appointment online.
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