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Fall and Winter are a great time for feeling toasty and warm, wrapped up in cozy sweaters or blankets, or settled in front of a fire. But freezing temperatures, low humidity, and furnace-blasted dry air can leave your skin dry, flaky, and itchy. Everyone needs to protect their skin from drying out in the winter. But if you have a skin condition, you should step up your routine to stay supple.

The signs (what you see) and symptoms (what you feel) of dry skin are:
Soft Hands
• Rough, scaly, or flaking skin.
• Itching.
• Gray, ashy skin in people with dark skin.
• Cracks in the skin, which may bleed if severe.
• Chapped or cracked lips.

Here are tips that can prevent dry skin or keep it from getting worse:

• Do not use hot water. Hot water removes your natural skin oils more quickly. Warm water is best for bathing.
• Use a gentle cleanser. Soaps can strip oils from the skin. Stop using deodorant bars, antibacterial soaps, perfumed soaps, and skin care products containing alcohol, like hand sanitizers. Look for either a mild, fragrance-free soap or a soap substitute that moisturizes.
• Limit time in the bathtub or shower. A 5- to 10-minute bath or shower adds moisture to the skin. Spending more time in the water often leaves your skin less hydrated than before you started. Do not bathe more often than once a day.
• Moisturize right after baths and showers. To lock in moisture from a bath or shower, apply a moisturizer while the skin is still damp.
• Before you shave, soften skin. It is best to shave right after bathing, when hairs are soft. To lessen the irritating effects of shaving your face or legs, use a shaving cream or gel. Leave the product on your skin about 3 minutes before starting to shave. Shave in the direction that the hair grows.
• Change razor blades after 5 to 7 shaves. A dull blade bothers dry skin.
• Use a humidifier. Keep the air in your home moist with a humidifier. Portable humidifiers or those that work with your heating system put moisture in the air that will be absorbed by your skin and hair.
• For redness and inflammation, apply cool cloths to itchy dry skin or an over the counter hydrocortisone cream on the area for a week. If these don’t provide relief, talk to your doctor.
• Soothe chapped lips. At bedtime, apply a lip balm that contains petroleum. Other names for this ingredient are petroleum jelly and mineral oil.
• Cover up outdoors in winter. In the cold, wear a scarf and gloves to help prevent chapped lips and hands.
• Be good to your face. If you have very dry skin, cleanse your face just once a day, at night. In the morning, rinse your face with cool water.
• Drink plenty of water.
• Eat omega-3 foods. Essential fatty acids can help fortify the skin’s natural oil-retaining barriers. Foods rich in omega-3 include cold-water fish (salmon, halibut, sardines), flax, walnuts, and safflower oil.

Writer: Melissa Welker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fulton County.

Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Sources:
American Academy of Dermatology, http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/a—d/dry-skin
WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/beauty/dry-skin-13/winter-dry-skin

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