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Published January 15, 2014, 03:28 PM

Positively Beautiful: Saving your skin from the polar vortex

This winter has been especially hard on skin, with prolonged sub-zero temps and wind. Then we come inside to a warm but dry home. The humidity readings of the indoor air are way down due to heating, so the water content of our skin evaporates, leading to very dry skin that can get irritated and bumpy.

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, INFORUM

This winter has been especially hard on skin, with prolonged sub-zero temps and wind. Then we come inside to a warm but dry home. The humidity readings of the indoor air are way down due to heating, so the water content of our skin evaporates, leading to very dry skin that can get irritated and bumpy.

You’ve probably already heard the usual advice: Limit hot showers and baths, moisturize, use gloves and protect your face as best you can. Let’s take it to the next level.

1. Bathing. Obviously, hot showers and baths cause increased water evaporation, so tone down the temperature. Look for moisturizing soaps like Dove and body washes like those from Eucerin. You can also use Cetaphil cleanser on your body. Towel dry and moisturize right away, while your skin is still damp. This helps lock in the water.

2. Moisturizer. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides. Cetaphil Restoraderm and Cerave are nice OTC brands to watch for. I also love Epionce Medical Barrier Cream. Check the label for dimethicone and glycerin, which are humectants. These help skin absorb more moisture.

If you are super dry, consider an occlusive moisturizer at night. These include oils like coconut, jojoba and olive, and products like Aquaphor and Vaseline. The greasier products work especially well on calloused hands and feet.

I have a little device that I hooked up to my showerhead called an Elixirator that mixes some body oil with the water. I turn it on at the end of my shower, and I no longer feel like a crispy potato chip.

3. Night. Put your sleep hours to good use for your skin. During the day, your core body temperature is up, and your skin temperature is low. But at night, your core body temperature is lower, while your skin gets warmer, making conditions better for beneficial ingredients to absorb.

4. Hand sanitizers. These can be an important part of hand hygiene, but be cautious, since they are often alcohol-based and very drying. Look for options that are moisturizing, or use a liquid soap to wash and hand cream right after.

5. Gloves. Use gloves to protect from the cold, dry air and from germs. You can get the kind that still let you text, so you will keep them on! Wash your gloves often. If you hand-wash dishes, uses protective gloves.

6. Sunscreen. When it’s cold, we don’t really think much about the sun, but we still get quite a bit of UV exposure during the winter months. Some UV rays penetrate the clouds. And those sunny, sparkly winter days pack a double whammy since the rays are reflected back off the snow. I prefer zinc and titanium based products.

7. Shades. Don’t forget your sunglasses for the same reasons you need sunscreen.

8. Lips. Stop licking them! This provides momentary moisture, but makes them chapped as the saliva evaporates. The skin over your lips lacks sebaceous glands, so your lips have no natural protection. A cult favorite lip balm is the EOS Organic Sphere, available on Amazon. And I love Jane Iredale tinted lip balms.

9. Chicken Skin. If you’ve ever seen a reddish bumps on your cheeks, arms or legs, and it doesn’t seem like acne, it might be Keratosis pilaris, or KP, or as I like to call it, chicken skin.

If it’s KP, the bumps are not painful or itchy. They are just there, and they make your skin feel rough. It’s a common problem, with over 50 percent of the population affected by KP at some point in their lifetime.

Basically, the cold, dry air stimulates extra keratin production. This plugs the pores and creates a bump. What to do? Exfoliate to break up the keratin. FutureDerm.com recommends a scrub with glycolic acid, lactic acid and azeleic acid called DermaDoctor KP Duty Scrub.

Next, use a moisturizing lotion like Cerave Renewing SA Lotion, which has salicylic acid. This is exfoliating and moisturizing, as well as anti-inflammatory. For resistant KP, laser hair removal can be helpful if you have darker hair. Each pore is part hair follicle, so the laser causes the hair to fall out and takes the keratin plug too.

If all else fails, maybe you could take your skin on a vacation, somewhere nice and humid and warm! Enjoy!

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at shesays@forumcomm.com.

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