Dry Skin Prevention - The Winter Itch Is Coming

By Kevin C. Smith MD FACP FRCPC

Winter is coming, and shortly after the cold weather arrives doctors will be seeing the annual surge of people troubled by dry, itchy winter skin and by hand eczema. Much of this seasonal misery can be easily prevented. Workmen's Compensation claims for hand eczema can also be reduced by education and simple preventive measures. Costs for expensive prescription creams for eczema can also be reduced by education and prevention. Learn more at Eczema Guide.ca.

As the relative humidity falls, some people will develop dry skin. Often, when the skin becomes itchy and irritated people make the problem worse by trying to treat their skin with long, hot baths or showers. Unfortunately, prolonged or excessive bathing will remove the natural oils and waxes, which are necessary to protect the skin and to reduce the rate of water evaporation from the skin.

Another common mistake is the use of soaps, bubble bath (which is really a form of detergent), and the use of washcloths and scrubbing pads. Unless the skin is visibly dirty, it is best to wash the skin with plain water and your bare hands. Water washes off what needs to be washed off, and water leaves behind all the natural oils and waxes, which protect your skin. If you need a bit of soap to wash your hands or armpits, just use a bit of unscented Dove™, Cetaphil™ or SpectroDerm™. Check out Mild Cleanser.ca to learn more about gentle cleansing.

Hand eczema can often be brought under control by paying particular attention to rinsing the hands very thoroughly to remove all traces of soap before drying the skin. Soap residue can be very irritating, and can greatly increase the rate of water loss from the skin.

In all cases, it can be very helpful to apply a moisturizing cream to the skin immediately after the skin is toweled off, to lock in residual moisture and to prevent dryness and scaling. I usually recommend to hand eczema patients that a tiny hint of Prevex™ cream be applied to the hands after every single hand washing, and I often suggest that the patient purchase three tubes of Prevex™, so that there will be one by each sink at home and one tube at work or school.

Individuals with eczema on the trunk and extremities are advised to apply Cliniderm™ or Impruv™ moisturizing cream to all skin immediately after every bath or shower throughout the winter, to lock in the moisture and keep the skin smooth and comfortable.

I counsel people with a tendency towards eczema that there is NO special diet for them to follow, and there is no health food, vitamin, 'miracle formula', which will be useful, and time and money should not be wasted on those things.

The simple steps outlined above can help to keep your skin soft, smooth and kissable throughout the winter. Learn more about eczema and self-help tips at Eczema Guide.ca.


About the author:
Dr. Kevin Smith is a dermatologist in Niagara Falls, Ontario with a particular interest in protecting the skin and in correcting skin problems resulting from aging, rosacea and sun damage. He is an expert in the use of Botox®, fillers, lasers and intense pulsed light to maintain and enhance the appearance of the skin, and have lectured on those subjects across North America, and in Europe, Asia and Mexico. Read more at www.smithlaser.com


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