According to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 81 million Americans are impacted by dry, itchy skin in the winter with the worst conditions occurring between the months of November and March. I just returned from a family ski trip in Park City, and I can attest to the fact that the snow, wind, and indoor heat stripped my skin of all of its moisture. I would imagine many of your clients are feeling the same pain, so I wanted to pass along these tips from O'Keeffe's Company. Here are some simple strategies to help people prevent their hands and feet from developing these painful symptoms.
1. Hydrate to achieve relief. Use a moisturizer made with a water base instead of oil. Oil-based products form a barrier on the skin that makes it difficult for the skin to draw in moisture. They also leave skin feeling greasy which can make it difficult for people to use their hands while performing daily activities.
2. Humidify to replenish lost moisture. As the temperature decreases during the winter months, so does the humidity. This cold, dry air is a common cause of winter skin problems. Heating the house also removes moisture from the air causing the skin to dry out. To replenish the moisture, use a humidifier. The humidity will help soothe dry skin irritation and eliminate bacteria that thrive in dry air environments. Make sure to keep the doors closed in rooms where a humidifier is in use.
3. Lower the thermostat. When it's cold outside, our natural instinct is to turn up the heat, but central heat can make the house even drier. Set the thermostat to a cool, comfortable setting – 68° F to 72° F.
4. Regulate water temperature. Extremely hot water deprives the skin of its natural oils, leaving skin dry, chapped and even withered. Take lukewarm showers or cut hot showers down to five minutes or less. Make sure to use a post-bath moisturizer as well.
5. Protect skin from the elements. Wind, freezing rain, and snow can have damaging effects on exposed skin. Make sure to wear waterproof gloves and boots to keep skin dry and healthy. Ensure that your boots fit properly. It may seem like common sense, but wearing the wrong size or style boot can take a toll on your feet causing them to crack or blister. Always wear gloves or mittens when outside. The extra layer of protection will allow your skin to retain moisture, making it less likely to dry out and split.
"The skin is the human body's largest organ and our first line of defense against infection," says Tara O'Keeffe, pharmacist and founder of O'Keeffe's Company. "Each year, when the temperature and humidity drop, skin becomes easily susceptible to dryness and irritation. The hands and feet become particularly vulnerable, since they're often directly exposed to the elements. It's critical that people take necessary precautions to protect their skin from irritation and infection, so that they can enjoy winter activities."