Yes, Skin Issues Are a Big Deal

What we must know about caring for our body's largest organ — especially in frigid temperatures

For the first time this winter, freezing temperatures are sweeping the nation. Between getting outside and having a little fun in the cold and the wind — and cozying up to the fire or heater once we’re back inside — a lot of us will be fighting dry skin.

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While you may not think skin issues are a big deal, “Controlling dry skin and controlling that itch is important to prevent a lot of downstream effects,” said Kristen Hook, M.D., a University of Minnesota Health pediatric dermatologist.

Inflammation associated with moderate to severe eczema can cause chronic itching, especially in infants and little kids, and that can lead to chronic sleep deprivation. “Chronic sleep deprivation has a huge effect — both on kids, and families. If the baby’s not sleeping, mom and dad aren’t sleeping. It’s been linked to degradation of families, social issues, and even mental health issues later in life,” Hook told LifeZette.

One of the biggest mistakes people make in trying to control dry skin, according to Hook, is using lotion versus a moisturizing cream. Lotions are more alcohol based so they actually can dry a little bit more over time. To clear up a skin problem, said Hook, “It’s not any one thing that a family will do. It’s a combination of things.”

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Here are five things you should know about winter skin care, according to Hook:

1.) Lukewarm water is best.
A lukewarm bath for five to 10 minutes will keep your skin better hydrated than a hot shower. So will simply patting your skin dry with a towel — especially if the skin is sensitive.

2.) Use a moisturizer.
Regular use of a thick moisturizing cream or ointment can reduce itching and dryness and boost general skin integrity, Hook said. Apply moisturizer three to five minutes after patting dry after a shower or bath — it’s most effective when applied to damp skin.

3.) Consider non-soap cleansers.
Soaps contain surfactants, which are what makes them bubble. Non-soap cleansers, or “syndets,” don’t contain the same surfactants, so they’re gentler on your skin.

4.) Try bleach baths.
Hook actually prefers to call them pool baths, since the practice is akin to soaking in swimming pool water. Either way, they’re an anti-inflammatory and an anti-bacterial soak for those with skin infections or other skin issues; ask your doctor first. Simply add a quarter cup of bleach to a full bathtub and bathe daily or every other day for at least five minutes, and you can reduce the bacterial load on your child’s skin and help heal minor skin infections and rashes.

5.) Sunscreen is important year ’round.
If you’re heading outside for a day of winter fun, apply the sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30 or greater. People with sensitive skin might use a sunscreen containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — it blocks the sun’s rays without being absorbed into the skin.

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