Expert tips to keep your skin in tip-top shape this winter

BY SANDRA GUY
The fun of winter holidays, whether it’s skiing, baking cookies or shopping in a brisk wind, can result in itchy, cracked and burning skin.
So how do you keep your skin from getting irritated while you’re counting your blessings and tallying up your gift receipts?
Dermatologist Dr. Rebecca Tung warns that it’s a two-fold dilemma: Exposure to winter weather outside and dry heat inside our homes and offices can contribute to dry skin.
Similarly, over-cleansing the face and body, too frequent exfoliation, and excessive use of toners can also bring on inflammation in the skin.
If the skin becomes dry and cracked, this can lead to more serious conditions like dermatitis (eczema), where the skin develops red scaly patches, and even infection.
Exposed areas need special care, Dr. Tung says. Remember to apply a fragrance-free moisturizer after showering and washing your hands.  
Consider: Could dry skin be caused by more than a change in the weather?
If a person has an internal condition like low thyroid (hypothyroidism), diabetes or poor circulation, dry skin is often more of a problem. Dry skin is a hallmark of dermatitis and ichythosis.
Many patients who are on cholesterol-lowering agents ( statins) often are troubled by dry skin as well. Dry, itchy skin can also be seen in patients with vitamin deficiencies like low vitamin D.
* An easy step-by-step routine for caring for dry skin:
* Wash with warm water, not hot
* Use a mild fragrance free cleanser
* Pat dry the skin with a soft towel
* Apply a fragrance free, light non-comedogenic moisturizer (lotion). If it’s in the morning, make sure the moisturizer contains a broad spectrum sunscreen. For your face, some people prefer a tinted moisturizer so they can skip the foundation and moisturizer. Repeat the process at night. On your face, it’s important to remove make-up before bedtime to avoid clogging your pores.
If it’s nighttime, some people will opt for a heavier moisturizer (cream or ointment)
* Stay hydrated! Drink 6-8 glasses of water to keep your skin happy and glowing
* If your home is dry in winter, you can use a warm steam vaporizer in your bedroom at night to normalize the humidity.
* Nutrition matters! Eat foods that contain nutrients that feed the skin— proteins, healthy fats and essential oils. If you feel your diet may be imperfect (like most of us), you may want to add at least a daily multiple vitamin. And recommended daily doses of vitamin D3 are between 1000-2000 IU per day.
When it comes to picking a moisturizer for dry skin, what type of ingredients are recommended?
Ingredients to look for:
• Silicone derivatives- dimethicone
• Natural oils -  like shea butter or argan oil and essential fatty acids
• Petrolatum- locks in moisture
• Ceramides
• Hyaluronic acid
• Glycerin
• Oatmeal derivatives 

Ingredients to avoid if they irritate your skin:
* Fragrance
* Certain preservatives like parabens or formaldehyde based ingredients
* Lanolin (wool alcohol)
* Vitamin E (topical)

*Do serums fit into a routine for dry skin? They can be helpful if they contain moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5 and essential oils.
Frequency of use depends on skin type. Overdoing oils can lead to pimples in acne-prone skin, so let your skin be your guide.
Serum are great for around the eyes.
They are a nice addition before bed and also light enough to wear under make-up.
*What about face masks? They can be helpful for the beauty enthusiast with dry skin.
Clay masks may be good for people with sensitive skin and acne.
Dr. Tung doesn’t recommend highly fragranced masks or those with high concentrations of exfoliants (hydroxy acids) because they may actually bring out further dryness and inflammation.
*What can people do about specific trouble areas or dry patches on their face if a moisturizer isn't working? 
You can create a tailored regimen using two types of moisturizers— apply a super heavy one for dry areas and a lighter one for more oily regions.
*If your stubborn dry skin patches are actually eczema (dermatitis), an over-the-counter low potency topical steroid like hydrocortisone 0.5-1.0 percent, used sparingly for a few days, can calm down flaring skin as needed but not continuously.
If the itching is unreal, reach for an oral non-drowsy antihistamine like loratidine or fexofenadine to calm down flared eczematous skin. If the itching is worse at night, an antihistamine like diphenhydramine can ease the irritation. 
If these patches still won’t budge, see a dermatologist. She or he will help you refine your skincare regimen and may also prescribe a prescription-strength topical steroid or non-steroid medicine.
With all products whether synthetic of natural, if you apply a given product to your skin and it creates a burning, redness or stinging sensation, it may be time to take a break.
You could be developing an allergy.
See a dermatologist if your skin is not getting better with your routine or becomes cracked or develops yellow crusting (signs of infection).
*What about dry lips? 
Stick to the basics. Most remedies are petrolatum or lipid rich based. Apply them frequently. Some people swear by products that contain menthol or phenol, while others with sensitive skin cannot tolerate using that. Avoid extended wear, very matte or glittery lipstick because they can worsen the situation.
*General advice or warnings for people with dry facial skin:
Tread lightly with anti-aging products. If you have dry or sensitive skin, some products your friends rave about may be too irritating for you and can actually inflame your skin rather than making it appear more youthful.
Dry skin can be managed. Careful selection of a mild skin care regimen is the first step.
Keep an eye on how your skin responds to products. You may need to change up your skin products based on the season. 

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