November is Healthy Skin Month, so this is a great time of year to emphasize the importance of good skin care and share some advice on maintaining healthy skin. Here are some tips that can help Coloradoans adopt healthy skin habits to care for our skin year-round.
Combat Dry Weather with Gentle Skin Care
As the weather gets cooler, we turn on our furnaces and prepare for the cold, dry winter months. This drier weather and lack of humidity can wreak havoc on our skin. Those with eczema or other dry skin conditions may notice that their skin worsens, and even those without a predilection to dry skin may notice the occasional dry crack or painful fissure.
The best way to combat the dry weather is with good gentle skin care. Showers and bathing should be kept short and use lukewarm water, as either too hot or too cold can dry out the skin. I recommend using a gentle hydrating cleanser that is free of harsh soap that can strip the skin of its natural oils and moisture.
The most important step is to moisturize every day, sometimes multiple times daily if necessary. Choose a thicker cream or ointment-based moisturizer over a lotion, as these will be more hydrating. Apply immediately after a bath or shower while your skin is still damp to lock in the moisture.
You may even want to consider running a humidifier in your bedroom at night, as this can also help to improve skin hydration. Applying petroleum jelly to fingertips and cuticles can also be helpful for those who struggle with brittle nails or fingertip splitting.
Apply Sunscreen Before Hitting the Slopes this Winter
Although most Coloradoans may not be thinking about their sun exposure as much during the winter months, it is a great time to remind ourselves of the risks of skin cancer as we prepare for opening day on the slopes.
Some may have already started the season as many popular ski resorts opened in the last few weeks. It’s important to remember that Colorado’s higher altitude and our love of outdoor activities means Coloradans are exposed to a higher UV incidence than the rest of the country.
Although it may not seem as sunny, it is still just as important to use our sunscreen when skiing and enjoying other outdoor winter activities. Choose a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher and make sure to reapply every two hours while hitting the slopes, and don’t forget to use a lip balm with SPF in it as well.
Reduce the Effects of Winter Dryness with a Nightly Retinoid
After getting home from a fun day in the snow, it may also be a good time to get into the habit of using a nightly retinoid. Retinoids are helpful in reducing wrinkles and fine lines, as well as improving overall skin tone, preventing pores from clogging, and helping to combat some of the skin aging effects from chronic sun exposure. Side effects of retinoids can be redness, irritation, and sun sensitivity, so it’s always a good idea to start with the lowest strength initially and work your way up. Starting slowly (only a few nights per week) and using a good moisturizer can help to mitigate these side effects. And don’t forget to continue to use your sun protection during the day!
While November reminds us of the importance of healthy skin, let’s make skin care a year-round habit.
Adam Vaudreuil, MD is a dermatologist at Vanguard Skin Specialists. He practices at Vanguard’s Parker and Briargate offices. He specializes in general and surgical dermatology.