Cold weather is finally here, and the elements will inevitably bombard our skin. Here are a few tips about protecting from dry skin … along with what could be more than just Old Man Winter.
By Emily Jorge, DCNP, FNP-BC
Cold days are coming and the elements will inevitably bombard our skin. When dealing with dry skin, have you ever felt there’s more flakes on your skin than outside on a snowy day?
A few tips about shielding ourselves from the weather are ahead along with what is expected and what may be more than just old man winter … read on.
- Xerosis: This is a fancy name for dry skin and is expected to occur with the change in seasons. Taking fewer baths, finding the right lip balm (an economical option is Aquaphor for approximately $2.99), minimizing your camp fire exposure (which can be overly drying for your skin), adding a humidifier to rooms heated with furnaces, drinking lots of water, avoiding fabrics such as 100% wool, and loading up on moisturizer are all prudent. Zeichner et al evaluated the irritation, sensitization, and comedogenic potential of CeraVe Healing Ointment in 3 study cohorts and found it is well tolerated and improves skin hydration. Using this twice a day can prevent scaly skin.
- Asteototic Eczema: Also known as Eczema Craquele’ or winter itch. This represents the extreme spectrum of xerosis. Frequently you will see not only scale and dry texture, but also fine fissuring that is itchy and sometimes burns. People who are more prone to this condition are the elderly due to decreased sebaceous/sweat gland activity and cell turnover rate. Choosing a harsh soap may contribute towards this along with some of the other factors already mentioned above with xerosis. Dove unscented soap as well as bathing less frequently can be helpful to minimize the risk for this condition. Asteototic eczema may progress quickly and often needs a provider evaluation.
- Actinic Keratosis (AK): Many people mistake these sharp adherent scales for dry skin and peel or pick them off, only to have them return. The average individual has 7.7 AK’s which develops at a rate of anywhere between 10.2%-20% over ten years into squamous cell carcinoma. Histologically there are six different types. Getting regular skin examinations is a great way to keep these in check. There are multiple treatment modalities available to eliminate AKs. Ask your provider for more information. Consistent use of sunscreen even on winter’s gray days contributes towards actinic damage prevention.
There are a number of skin conditions that can worsen in the winter such as eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and skin infections. If anything on your skin starts to itch, burn, bleed, grow, or change then it should be evaluated by a health care professional. For more information, view the video Rash 101 In Adults: When to Seek Treatment at aad.org.