Weather can be harsh on dry skin

Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2003

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Winter's chilly temperatures can bring out the worst in skin.

You're stuck in dry, heated air every day. Outside isn't much better, with cold, dry wind whipping around. (Believe it or not, your skin suffers without summer's humidity.)

So what's a body to do?

You have to put back what is missing, said Chuck Friedman, scientific director for Burt's Bees, Inc., a company that specializes in skin-care products.

"So when your skin is hungry, feed it what it's craving," Friedman said. And what it's craving is oil.

Doctors recommend a double-sided approach for winter skin care: Avoid the things that will further dry your skin and use products that will replenish the oil.

First things first: Avoid hot baths and showers.

"The longer and hotter your bathing is, the more drying it is to your skin," said John Reeves, a dermatologist at Central Dermatology.

So turn down the temperature and shorten the amount of time you spend bathing. If your skin is severely irritated and cracked, try to bathe less often.

"I always tell people to decrease bathing as long as it is socially acceptable," Reeves said.

"Try to use soap less frequently and not in areas where you don't really need it, such as your arms and legs, which are typically drier areas as well."

Choose a soap or cleanser with added moisturizer and avoid harsher soaps such as anti-bacterial soaps, said Bruce Brod, spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatol-ogy and clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania school of medicine.

"I tend to favor the liquid moisturizing body washes in the winter time, and there's certain soapless cleansers out on the market, also," Brod said. "I think people get into trouble when they use anti-bacterial soaps or more harsh soaps."

After bathing, apply moisturizer while your skin is damp.

"I tend to favor, for the body, cream-based moisturizers rather than lotion-based moisturizers. The lotion-based moisturizers tend to have more water and less moisturizer. And because they have more water, they also tend to have more preservatives," Brod said.

Friedman at Burt's Bees recommends using moisturizers with ingredients that can be found in the body anyway, such as triglycerides, wax esters, fatty acids and glycerin.

"We're talking about our ancestral personal care. Why? Because it works and it's what we've evolved with," he said.

"All fats are triglycerides. Lard, animal fat, vegetable fat, they're all triglycerides," he said. "Skin recognizes these ingredients and integrates them."

"And then support that with copious amounts of vitamin E, known as tocopheryl acetate, because that's also a component of healthy skin," he said.

Reeves said using moisturizers with alpha hydroxy acids also may help.

"You can even use them on winter's sensitive skin. Because the reason it's sensitive is that it's dry and has microscopic fissures," he said. "You're actually changing the skin so it is younger."

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