Skin is important for our overall health because it holds moisture into our bodies and is the first line of defense against bacteria. Our skin lets us know when it needs help by getting dry, chapped, red, itchy, cracked, and painful. Winter presents unique problems for our skin, but we can take steps to keep our skin healthy in spite of cold weather. See tips below on how to keep skin healthy by Adding Moisture & Preventing Moisture Loss, Keeping Sufficient Humidity Indoors, Preventing Skin Irritation, and Avoiding Contact Skin Irritants.
Adding Moisture & Preventing Moisture Loss
Cold air holds less moisture so skin can become dry and even cracked or painful in winter months. Help skin stay moisturized and healthy when temperatures drop and cold winds blow.
Keeping Sufficient Humidity Indoors
- Protect skin when you are outdoors from wind and cold with gloves, hats, scarves, and cold weather masks (that also warm the air you breathe).
- Drink enough water. It is easy to forget in winter when you tend to be less thirsty, but skin needs to be moisturized from the inside out as well as from the outside in.
- Use moisturizer at least once a day and more often as needed. Avoid fragrances and dyes that can cause skin irritation.
- Pat dry after shower or bath and apply moisturizer while the skin is still damp.
- Avoid overexposure to water - limit showers or baths to 15 minutes in lukewarm water. The hotter the water and the longer you stay in it, the more moisture is depleted from your skin.
- Pick soaps and cleansers that are mild and do not strip moisture from skin. Some soaps contain moisturizer that can help soothe skin while cleansing.
- Use sunscreen. The sun doesn't feel as strong in winter, but UVA and UVB rays can still be damaging.
- Lips are particularly sensitive to cold and wind. Keep them moisturized, and a lip balm with sun protection is especially good.
- Hands are particularly susceptible since they suffer frequent hand washing to avoid sickness in the winter. Apply moisturizer at bed time and sleep in cotton gloves to hold the moisturizer on your hands to help soften and heal.
Keep an eye on indoor humidity to prevent loss of skin moisture. Not only is cold air less humid naturally, when it is heated in our homes, it becomes even drier.
Preventing Skin Irritation
- A humidity gauge can help you know when humidity is dropping too low and also keep you from inadvertently over-humidifying. For comfort and allergen reduction, humidity is best between 45 and 50%.
- Especially in winter, a humidifier may be needed to add moisture to the air indoors. You may find this aids breathing as well as skin.
- Dry air can cause the tender skin inside the nose to become irritated. Nasal sprays can help keep nostrils moisturized.
Choose cleaning and personal care products that touch your skin wisely. Limit chemicals, fragrances, and dyes.
Avoiding Contact Skin Irritants
- Use cleaning products that have the least chemicals possible to get the job done. Try chemical-free cleaners, and if they are not strong enough, try low-chemical cleaners, and as a last resort, use harsh chemicals when absolutely necessary.
- Pick mild soaps for bathing and hand washing that contain few chemicals, fragrances, and dyes and consider soaps that contain moisturizer.
- Choose laundry detergents that have the least amount of irritating ingredients because residue on clothes can cause skin to itch or become inflamed.
- Chlorine can irritate skin and can be removed by filtration.
- Use non-latex gloves to protect skin from cleaners and water.
Fabrics, metals, topical medicines, and personal care and cleaning products can cause skin irritation by contact. When trying something new, apply to a small area to see if you have a reaction.
- If wool or other fibers cause you to itch, avoid them. Think about upholstery, bedding, outerwear, and any fibers that touch your skin in addition to the obvious - clothing.
- Nickel in jewelry, accessories, cell phones, and more might be a cause of itching or redness. If your skin is red and irritated where touched by metal, that metal could be nickel. You can test items to tell and then protect favorite items to keep them from causing irritation.
- Through trial and error, you will learn ingredients that irritate your skin and then you can read labels to avoid those substances. To become more aware of common irritants, click here to take a look at a list provided by the makers of Vanicream (click on the list to enlarge if needed).
To have healthy skin all winter, it can just take a few small lifestyle changes. Protect skin, moisturize, avoid known irritants, and control your environment to prevent red, cracked, itchy, irritated skin. Although steps are always easier said than done, it really doesn't take much effort to improve your skin's health by following some of the tips above.
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