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Skin Care 101

Welcome to the January edition of our Educational E-Newsletter. I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday season. As you may have already experience, winter's dry, cooler weather causes dry and irritated skin for millions of people. During winter I feel I'm constantly reaching for hand lotion. If you're looking for relief, keep reading for some Winter Skin Care Strategies and education. Then take advantage of 10% off our Sensitive Skin Products!

The majority of this information is a re-print of a similar article originally written in January 2005. If you're new to the newsletter or you'd like to reread any of our other newsletters, visit our newsletter archive.


Katie Weaver & The National Allergy Newsletter Team

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Winter Skin Care Strategies

All About Skin

Did you know that skin is your body's largest organ? The outer layer of skin, known as the epidermis, is constantly regenerating itself, growing from the bottom upwards. Dead skin cells are shed from the outer layer as this regeneration happens about every 52-75 days. I'm sure that dust mites are pleased with this amazing skin regeneration process since they feed on our shed, dead skin cells! Here are some other interesting skin facts:
  • The average adult has 21 square feet of skin, weighing approximately 7 lbs.
  • Skin is made up of about 300 million cells.
  • Human skin is nearly as thin as a few sheets of paper.
  • The thickest skin is found on the palms and soles and the thinnest on the lips and around the eyes.
  • Skin serves to waterproof the body and protect it from invaders.
  • Touch is one of the first senses to develop - even in the womb, a baby feels its way to bring hand to mouth.

Why And How To Protect Your Skin

Proteque Skin Protection System As you can see, skin is an intricate organ that plays a vital role in our lives. So how can we protect it? Any dermatologist will tell you that limiting sun exposure is a major way to protect your skin's look and function. Even in winter, it is important to protect your lips and skin from damage by applying sunscreen - at least SPF 15. I use a daily face lotion with sunscreen included to prevent dryness and sun damage. Free from many common irritants, the Vanicream brand has both a sunscreen and a lip protectant, both of which offer lasting protection from the sun's rays.

Doctors also recommend keeping our skin hydrated to prevent cracking and pre-mature aging. If you ever feel overwhelmed when looking for the right skin moisturizer, here is a summary of the four basic classes of body moisturizers, in order of effectiveness: ointments, oils, creams and lotions.

Ointment Moisturizers do the best job at trapping moisture in the skin. However, they usually have a greasy feel. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly is the most common example of an ointment moisturizer. When applying these moisturizers, use only a small amount and rub it in well.

Oil Moisturizers have less of a greasy feel. The most common oils applied directly to the skin are baby oil, mineral oil, vegetable oil and bath oil (like RoBathol). Pure vitamin E oil for eczema is another moisturizing agent that I often use after a shower, especially during the winter. Vitamin E oil, available at many health food stores, is said to promote healing of cuts, burns, eczema, and other skin problems, and I'm hoping it fends off those squint lines I'm developing! Another way to get the benefits of vitamin E oil for eczema is to use a product that includes it as an ingredient like Vitec - a high potency lotion that leaves skin soft and nourished.

Cream Moisturizers are more popular than ointments because they don't leave as much of a greasy residue. Typically white in color and of a rather thick consistency, creams are rubbed into the skin. Common examples of cream moisturizers include Vaseline Cream, Eucerin and Neutrogena Hand Cream. My sister's allergist, along with many of National Allergy's referring physicians, recommends Vanicream, a non-greasy, non-scented moisturizer formulated especially for eczema and other dry skin conditions.

Lotion Moisturizers are suspensions of oily chemicals in alcohol and water. Lotions are the most popular moisturizers, available in an endless variety of scents and colors, and usually not as thick as creams. However, those with skin or chemical sensitivities should be cautious since many lotions contain alcohol, lanolin and fragrances. Also, if a lotion does not feel at least a bit greasy when being applied, it may not be providing the hydrating protection you need. Some doctor-recommended lotions include Vaseline Intensive Care, U-Lactin, Lubriderm, and Nivea. We love U-Lactin for its super-absorbency and soft, non-greasy feel.

What Causes Dry Skin?

Proteque Skin Protection System The outer layer of skin is like a piece of plastic wrap you'd put on a cake to keep it moist. This prevents the moisture in the cake from escaping into the outside air. Your outer layer of skin, called the stratum corneum, is made up of dead skin cells that are embedded in your living skin cells' natural oils. These oils act as a barrier to water escaping the body and they keep irritating germs from entering your body. The skin cells and oils in the stratum corneum attract a certain amount of water, which is what keeps our skin smooth and pliable. When our protective oils are lost, the coveted water that our stratum corneum holds can escape more readily, causing dryness and a reduced barrier to irritants.

What Is Eczema?

Eczema is a loose term often used to describe sensitive skin, easily irritated by soaps, wool or environmental factors. A common form of eczema, known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic, recurring skin condition that is not easy to treat. Skin can become extremely itchy, red, dry, scaly, cracked or inflamed. Depending how old the eczema sufferer is, skin "flare-ups" can appear in many parts of the body including hands, feet, face, elbows, skin folds, etc.

Another form of eczema is contact dermatitis. This condition usually results in a red, itchy reaction where the skin has been in contact with a substance that the immune system reads as foreign, like an allergen.

Learn More About Caring For Eczema And Dermatitis

General Tips For Dry Skin Care

Dry skin doesn't just affect eczema sufferers. If you're like me and suffer from winter skin dryness, you may benefit from these tips I gathered from various sources:
    Allerderm Vinyl Gloves
  • Don't scratch!
  • Moisturize at least once daily.
  • Wear gloves when hand-washing dishes or using household chemicals.
  • Keep baths or showers short.
  • Use warm (not hot) water.
  • Find out what triggers your flare-ups.
  • Use a germ-free humidifier if the air is dry.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Use as little soap as possible or non-abrasive soap and shampoo like the Vanicream Cleansing Bar or Free & Clear Products.
  • Test any new face care products on your body first.
  • Avoid winter germs by using non-drying, alcohol-free hand sanitizers, or use a lotion that sanitizes and moisturizes, like Proteque (pictured above).
  • Wear cotton and sleep on chemical-free cotton sheets.
  • Be patient.
  • Follow your doctor's treatment advice.
I hope this information has been helpful for our readers who have eczema or know of someone who suffers from it. I know it was helpful for me to research and learn more about winter skin care from experts in the field of allergy and dermatology.

National Allergy E-Mail Newsletter The information in this newsletter is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.

Remember that our customer service representatives have plenty of experience guiding people through the options for allergy, asthma and sinus relief, so feel free to contact us by calling one of our phone experts at 1-800-522-1448 Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:30 pm Eastern Time. You can also e-mail us at


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