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How to prevent and treat dry skin in winter

Two cross-country skiers traverse a snow-covered shoulder along Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park. (Dave Dildine/WTOP)

WASHINGTON – Cold air outside, heaters inside and dry air everywhere means it must be winter — dry skin season.

The best advice when it is frigid outside is to stay indoors, keeping in mind to still take extra steps to protect skin from the ravages of dry central heating.

“It’s a double whammy,” says Dr. Howard Brooks, medical director of Georgetown Skin.

“When we are outdoors the environment is pulling all the moisture from our skin. And when we are indoors most of the heat that we have is a very dry heat so the same thing is happening.”

Dr. Alison Ehrlich, professor and chair of the Dermatology Department at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, says baby your skin in the wintertime.

This goes for men, too: “Just like a woman’s skin can get dry, mens’ can too. They should use the same moisturizing soaps and lotions,” Brooks says.

A hot shower may sound like a great idea, but Ehrlich says you really want to use warm water and a gentle cleanser when the humidity is low.

She says slather on a moisturizer as soon as you get out of the shower.

“If you can use a moisturizer that is a cream or an ointment, versus a lotion, it will hydrate the skin more,” she says.

That means using moisturizer every time you wash your hands, too. Brooks suggests keeping moisturizer at every sink.

Ehrlich, who is also affiliated with George Washington Hospital and the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates, says it is possible to find an excellent product that will do the job at a drug store for less than $10 a bottle. Just be sure to use it liberally and apply repeatedly to skin that is exposed to the elements.

Her advice to anyone going out in the cold is to spend as little time outdoors as possible.

She says cover any exposed areas, emphasizing “cover your eyes and ears, those are often areas that are missed.”

Ehrlich suggests wearing a double layer of socks and switching from gloves to layers of mittens.

“Mittens allow your fingers to be in contact, which actually helps to hold the heat in,” she says.

Related story:

In the cold, layer your clothing

Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

Paula Wolfson and Randi Martin contributed.


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