General Dermatology

Dealing with Dry Winter Skin

By Amy Bernards, PA-C

Fall and winter are dry times of the year here in Wisconsin, so it is very important to stay well-hydrated and keep your skin moisturized. Here are some great tips on ways to keep your skin soft and beautiful year ‘round!

  1. Lukewarm water in winter is best: A lukewarm bath with oatmeal or baking soda can help relieve skin that is so dry it has become itchy.
    The intense heat of a hot shower or bath actually breaks down the lipid barriers in the skin, which can lead to a loss of moisture. You’re better off with warm water. If the itchiness continues or you notice dry, irritated patches, it’s time to see a dermatologist. You may have a skin condition requiring a prescription medication to soothe the skin.
  2. Moisturize immediately afterward: Your skin not only needs more moisture, but moisture right after you wash. Applying moisture to damp skin helps seal that dampness into the skin. Keep a bottle near the bathtub, shower stall, and at every sink and use liberally every time you wash.
  3. Choose your moisturizer carefully: According to Reedsburg Area Medical Center dermatologist Amy Bernards, 100 percent petrolatum has been the longstanding moisturizer of choice in dermatology, and it works well on dry lips, too. Some great go-to moisturizers include Cera Ve, Cetaphil and Vanicream. Always be sure to choose a cream version as it is thicker than its lotion counterpart.
  4. Protect that skin when you are outside: Get used to wearing gloves and scarves to protect skin from cold winds, rain and snow. Also, don’t forget the sunscreen. Winter sun can be just as damaging as summer sun, so apply it generously to any exposed areas. ZO has great sun protection products that offer UVA/UVB and HEV light protection. These products can be used alone or under makeup. Call RAMC’s Dermatology Department at 768-3900 for more information on these and other skin care products.
  5. Humidify: Heating systems dry out the air, so consider installing a humidifier in your home, particularly in your bedroom, to put moisture back into the air and help prevent your skin from drying out.
  6. Drink: Bernards says it’s very important to our skin that we keep our body hydrated. Water is the beverage of choice. Toss a little lemon in or add a tea bag and you have a delicious and hydrating drink that’s good for your skin, too.
  7. Give your hands and feet a “helping hand:” The skin on your hands is thinner than on most parts of the body and has fewer oil glands. That means it’s harder to keep your hands moist, especially in cold, dry weather. This can lead to itchiness and cracking. Your feet suffer in winter too with cracking and peeling. Consider slathering on one of the cream moisturizers from Cera Ve, Cetaphil or Vanicream and then wearing cotton gloves and socks to bed to seal in the moisture until morning.
  8. Hydrate from the inside out: Eating foods high in water content can help hydrate your skin from the inside out. Try watermelon, cantaloupe, apples, oranges, kiwi, and watery veggies like celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and carrots. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C and zinc to support the healthy production of collagen and elastin. Also consider an omega-3 supplement, or consume more fatty fish and flaxseed to give your skin the building blocks it needs to appear supple and smooth.
  9. Use do-it-yourself masks: Homemade hydrating masks can provide needed moisture in the winter months. Use natural moisturizing ingredients like honey, avocado, yogurt, olive and jojoba oils, almond oil, bananas and aloe. Mix what you like together to create a cream or paste, and leave on skin for 10-30 minutes for lasting hydration.

Need To Know: Sun Protection

By Amy Bernards, PA-C

  • The sun gives off two types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB. UVB is the shorter wave UV ray that causes sunburns and can cause skin cancers.  UVA is the longer wave that can penetrate the skin more deeply and cause wrinkling, sun spots and sagging. UVA can also make the carcinogenic effects of UVB rays worse and may cause skin cancer on its own.
  • Everyone over the age of 6 months should wear daily sunscreen.  Even for those that work indoors, especially near windows, as windows do not filter out the UVA rays.
  • Infants 6 months and younger should avoid the sun. Their skin is very sensitive to the sun rays, as well as the ingredients in sunscreen. Sun protective clothing and shade are best for infants.
  • SPF is Sun Protection Factor. An SPF of 15 filters out approximately 93% of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97%, SPF 50 keeps out 98%. As you can see, no sunscreen blocks out all UV rays.
  • Another way to look at it...if it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to turn red, using a SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer — about 5 hours.
  • Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Up to 40% of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth on a completely cloudy day. So you DO need to wear sunscreen on a cloudy day.
  • One blistering sunburn increases your risk of developing a skin cancer by 50%.
  • Few dermatologists believe that sunscreen use causes Vitamin D deficiency. If you are worried, Vitamin D is available in dietary supplements and many foods.
  • Always choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen of a SPF of 30 or greater.
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outdoors so that it has time to absorb into your skin.
  • All sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours.
  • Be sure to protect your scalp, ears and lips. These are areas that skin cancers are often found and can be most aggressive.
  • Wearing sun protective clothing and a broad-brimmed hat are just as important as wearing sunscreen.
  • To be sure that you are getting the full SPF of your sunscreen, you should apply 1 ounce of sunscreen, equal to a shot glass. Studies show that most people apply only half to a quarter of that amount.

The ABCDEs of Melanoma, from the Skin Cancer Foundation

Amy Bernards sees patients at the Reedsburg Area Medical Center Specialty Group on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. To schedule an appointment, call 608-768-3900.