Fall has finally (kind of) arrived in Gainesville, and now we can all enjoy ourselves without sweating when we step outside. OK, maybe temperatures just below 70 degrees isn’t exactly fall for other places, but it makes living in Florida enjoyable. But with cold weather comes changes to our health and daily habits. Dry skin can be a monster in the winter by making your whole body uncomfortable and scaly. It is incredibly important to have a skincare regimen that keeps your skin moisturized with the lack of humidity and heat.
In an effort to discover the best ways to prevent dryness during the colder months, I spoke with Dr. Abel Torres, a professor and chairman in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Florida. Read on for his expert skin tips.
HC UFL: “With the cooler weather approaching, how important is it to keep your skin moisturized, and what health risks surround having excessively dry skin?”
Dr. Torres: “It is important to keep hydrated in the colder weather, and the reason for it is [because there is] obviously less humidity in the air, so the skin will be drier. The other reason is that people will tend to be using heaters or humidifiers. So as a result, it’s important to use moisturizers regularly. In terms of what problems you would have from the dry skin, it’s that your skin tends to crack and peel easier. When that happens, it means the skin barrier is not as effective. When the skin barrier is not as effective, you can be exposed to things such as allergens that can make you allergic or irritate the skin and make it easier to be prone to these things.”
HC UFL: “Psoriasis and Eczema can be irritated with the cold weather. How can people with these issues, or just people with dry skin in general, protect their skin from becoming so dry that it makes their condition worse?”
Dr. Torres: “During the winter, psoriasis may not flare up because it’s a dry skin disease. The same thing is true for eczema in a sense that the clothing can irritate it and cause some irritation. Anybody will benefit from a good skincare regimen. That means first, you take quick showers, not long ones, and that’s not intuitive to people. When [people have] dry skin, they think the more time they spend in the water, the more hydrated the skin is going to get, and it’s the exact opposite. The more time your skin is in the water, the drier it will get. Instead, try a moisturizing wash because you can let it sit on your skin and hydrate instead of quickly washing it off, which is the next thing. The other thing you can do is take a tub bath, but use a moisturizing wash in the water, such as an oatmeal solution.”
HC UFL: “Students in college tend to deal with acne and are afraid to use a moisturizer or use the wrong one because it will clog up their pores. What do you recommend to people with acne and dry skin in the winter?”
Dr. Torres: “‘Non-comedogenic’ means [the ingredients are] less likely to plug up the pores, so therefore you won’t get the acne you normally would get. Read the label to see if it says non-comedogenic. The other less-ideal way you could test the product is to put it in your hand, and take a couple of drops of water into your hand. If it forms tiny little beads of water, that means it’s pretty oily and more likely to plug up your pores. On the other hand, when you add the water and a pool of water forms that can run off your hand, that’s less likely to plug up your pores. The problem is that many treatments for acne will tend to peel the skin a bit because that’s part of what they are trying to do to open up the pores and heal the acne. It might irritate the skin a little bit, so you want to use something that calms down the irritation and that scaling, but you can’t undo that by using something that’s comedogenic.”
HC UFL: “What products do you recommend for dryness?”
Dr. Torres: “In terms of the best products, everyone’s skin is different, and some people hate the oily feeling of their skin, while other people love it. The general rule is that as you get older you need a greasier product, and when you’re younger you need less of that. The reason is as we get older, we start losing the natural oils and because of that the skin gets a lot drier faster. When you’re younger, you have a lot more of those natural oils. So for a younger person, I’m going to recommend more of a moisturizer that’s not as greasy and thick, whereas for an older person it may be better to use a thicker, less lotion-like and more Vaseline-like. There are different products out there, such as Neutrogena, Dove and Aquaphor. I recommend going to the store and get some samples to see which ones work.”
Hopefully you’ll remember these tips the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed (and in need of some dry-skin therapy) at the drugstore or beauty counter. Happy fall, and happy hydrated skin season!