• Dr. Jennifer Taylor

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

As warm days are now a memory, I can’t help but start to think of the long winter season that is right around the corner. Unfortunately, pumpkin spice lattes and hot chocolate are not enough to get me excited about cooler weather. I live in Chicago and it gets down right cold here. And with that cold blistering wind, comes dry, itchy skin.

This is bad news for me, because my skin and hair are dry on the warmest summer day—in 100% humidity. I’m just one of many unlucky folks with this burden to bear: dry, itchy skin. I get a little bit of a reprieve in the summer. I can sometimes get away with moisturizing my skin every other day. But since Fall is upon us and winter is right around the corner, I thought I’d share a few quick tips for protecting your skin on cold, windy days.

1) Protect your skin by applying sunscreen. Yes, even during winter. Remember, there are two types of rays that cause sun damage: UVA and UVB. UVB rays are the ones that cause sunburn. UVA rays cause wrinkles and age spots. This may come as a surprise, but sunburn does occur during cold weather, especially when snow is on the ground because UVB rays are still present. Those rays can bounce off the snow and onto your skin. The more likely form of sun damage during cooler seasons is UVA damage. So even on an overcast day, your skin still needs protection. For these reasons dermatologists recommend broad spectrum sunscreens to protect your skin year-round. Broad spectrum means the product is protecting you against both types of damage. Side note: black and brown people DO in fact get sunburn and though it does seem to happen later in life compared to other ethnicities, black does in fact, crack!

2) Use a gentle skin cleanser, especially for your face. I love the fresh smell of bar soaps as much as the next person, but many commercially made soaps strip your skin of way too much of its moisture, giving it that dry and tight feeling. Often they contain alcohols and formaldehyde as preservatives. Try soaps that have added moisturizers or consider making your own. Pinterest is full of ideas!

3) Exfoliate 1-2 times per week. Exfoliation just means removing the outermost layers of skin, which is accomplished in a variety of ways. This step is important because when there is a build-up of those outer layers, it can be difficult for any moisturizer to be maximally absorbed. If you notice that your skin flakes constantly despite how much lotion you apply, this may be the problem. You can use sugar, salt, a loofah, a brush, coffee grounds, and even ground walnut shells. I personally do not recommend walnut shells because they are too harsh for the skin, especially the face, and can cause microscopic tears in the skin leading to inflammation and break outs. Chemical peels are another form of exfoliation that use acids or enzymes to break down the layers of dead skin. Examples are products that contain alpha hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid.

As with most things in life balance is important. If you exfoliate your skin too often, you can cause irritation and inflammation and the skin may itch, burn, and/or become red. Oilier skin types may be able to safely exfoliate 3 times per week.

4) Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Properly moisturized skin keeps its elasticity, its glow, and resistance to injury. Moisture is needed for skin renewal and repair. When skin is dry, it becomes itchy, followed by scratching and increased inflammation. For dry skin types, the best moisturizers are those that are emollient based because they keep moisture locked in and don’t wash off quickly like a lot of lotions do. If you have naturally oily skin, a regular lotion will do. I don’t recommend thicker, emollient based moisturizers because they could lead to increased break outs and acne from clogged pores.

5) Don’t forget your lips! They need love too. Sugar scrubs are perfect for the lips because the granules are gentle on your skin. Consider mixing coconut or olive oil, raw sugar, and honey. This should make a paste which you can store in the refrigerator for later use. There is no magic amount of time that the mixture needs to stay applied, but after you cleanse your lips with water, follow with applying lip balm. Your lips will thank you

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