Winter Weather Skin Problems
February 6, 2012
Tips on protecting your skin from the cold
By Dr. Joshua Fox, Advanced Dermatology
Chilly winter weather is no joke: It can lead to dry, chapped skin, and can cause or exacerbate eczema, hives, and other troublesome skin problems. Prolonged exposure to extreme cold and wind can lead to tissue-damaging frostbite. For these reasons, it’s important to have a plan to protect your skin from the elements. The onset of winter means it’s time to improve your skin-care regimen with the following tips.
- Moisturize! Switch to a more greasy formulation than you use in the summer, even one with petrolatum (petroleum jelly), to form a strong barrier and prevent dry skin. Dr. Fox says to apply it several times a day. Also, don’t bathe as frequently as in warm-weather months, don’t scrub your skin, and immediately apply moisturizer when you step out of the shower or bath. Towel off gently and apply the lotion while your skin is still a little damp.
- Don’t forget to use sunscreen, particularly if you’re working or exercising outdoors. The sun itself may be somewhat weaker during winter, but its power is enhanced by snow, particularly at high altitudes. “The sun reflects off the snow which can lead to sunburn, and the cold wind can further redden skin,” notes Dr. Fox. Be sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 on all exposed skin. While skiing wear a face mask or apply some balm or petroleum jelly to your lips and nostrils to form a barrier and prevent chapping.
- Wear protective clothing. “This includes materials made of non-itchy, non-irritating fabrics such as silk underwear, a hat with a visor to protect against the sun, and high-quality gloves,” he advises. If you’re going to be out for a while, it’s also a good idea to wear two or three layers to trap warmth. “Wearing a thin base layer that contains nylon, Lycra, elastane, polyester, and/or acrylic to help move moisture away from the body, like a wick, is an important tip for keeping warm in cold temperatures. Avoid cotton and cotton blends as the base layer, as cotton tends to get wet and stay wet, which can make you feel cold.” Add to that a thicker middle layer of wool, synthetics, or fleece to insulate, and a windproof and/or waterproof outer layer.
Several skin conditions can be precipitated by cold weather, including Frostbite, Eczema, Raynaud’s phenomenon and Cold-induced hives.