OakLeaf Medical Network Healthy Viewpoints, Winter 2003
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Deb Markham

Winter: Extra Skin Protection Needed

Deb Markham Certified Medical Aesthetician,NSPEP

As we enter each season, our skin routine needs to be re-evaluated. During the winter, indoor heating, cold winds, lower humidity and a hectic lifestyle all affect the condition of our skin. Look closely in the mirror. Is your skin dry, cracked or flaky? Does it itch? If your answer is yes, your skin is crying for moisture. Every cell in your body needs moisture to function properly and your skin is no exception. Your skin is a reflector of how you feel inside. No moisturizer alone can turn back the clock and make you look significantly younger, but skin that is well hydrated looks healthier than skin that is dry and cracked.

A good moisturizer works in two ways. It attracts moisture to the top layers of the skin either by drawing water up from the deeper dermis layer of the skin or by drawing it into the skin from the air. Ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids (including glycolic and lactic acid) and beta hydroxy acids (such as salicylic acid) not only work as humectants, drawing moisture to the skin, but also slough away dead, dry skin cells, making skin better able to absorb and hold moisture.

Winter sports are exhilarating, but remember that your skin is not used to dry, cold weather conditions which call for extra skin protection. As much as we enjoy feeling the sun's warmth on our skin, it can wreak havoc on our skinÍs health. Damaging UV rays can be more intense in winter, especially in the air of higher altitude and reflected off snow and ice. Sun exposure creates free radicals in the skin, the major cause of premature aging and skin cancer. There is no better winter protection both on and off the slopes, than broad-spectrum sunscreen combined with nourishing anti-oxidant vitamins. Look for the ingredients of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in your sun protection with an SPF of 15 -30. Over one million people will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year. Correcting previous sun damage and preventing further overexposure to the sun will assist you in achieving a healthy and active lifestyle while protecting your skin.


Cruel but true, the skin on the back of the hands shrivels, chaps and shows age easily. This is because it has very few oil glands and is often left unprotected and exposed to the worst of the elements. As years pass, thinning skin and shrinking fat cells accentuate veins and tendons producing a bony, veined, aged appearance most people could do without. Regardless of the cause of the dryness, there are ways to treat your hands that lessen the chances of winter irritation and ease the discomfort. You can protect hands against soaps, cleansers and other chemicals by wearing vinyl gloves during wet activities. Avoid hot water and use lukewarm water when bathing. Leave skin slightly damp and then apply your moisturizer. For extremely dry, cracked hands and feet, apply an enriched exfoliating cream that will soften calluses while healing. Bath oils may be added to the bath for added moisture. Use of moisturizing cuticle oil can help prevent nail bed infections and moisturize dry, chapped skin. An evening application of anti-oxidant serum, followed by a glycolicor lactic acid product will increase cell turnover. Chemical peels and microdermabrasion treatments can significantly improve areas that have been the subject of more extensive damage. A customized skin rejuvenation program enables us not only to put our best face forward, but also our best hands!