The holidays are over. Wintertime is here. If you’re like many people, your skin may be going through some changes just like Mother Nature!

Did you know our skin is the body’s largest organ? One of its most important functions is to protect you from the environment. It also plays a vital role in how your body produces and uses vitamin D. Additionally, the skin is how your body senses things -- pain, pressure, temperature, and touch.

Like other organs, a healthy diet with plenty of water and regular physical activity is good for your skin.

As a nurse practitioner who works in a dermatology office, I am often asked how to care for skin and what skin care products are most effective. Here are some tips that I often share:

How winter affects your skin

As we age, skin loses the ability to hold onto moisture. Each winter you may notice your skin is drier than in past years. Additionally, colder weather and indoor heat draws moisture out of the skin. And every time the skin gets wet (washing your hands, bathing, washing dishes) more moisture is pulled from it.

The result of this is like a perfect storm for increasing skin dryness. Dry skin can lead to itching, scaling, and scratching, and sometimes cracks in the skin barrier that can lead to infections. Moisturizing daily can help to prevent dryness and help to preserve the barrier function of our skin.

Moisturize your skin in winter

The best thing to do is moisturize all over within 10 minutes of bathing or showering.  Pat the skin dry with a towel after bathing – don’t rub. Use a moisturizer that traps water in the skin, which can help reduce the appearance of some fine lines and make your complexion look brighter and younger. For hands, moisturize after each time you wash your hands or they get wet. Choose a moisturizer with a fragrance that you like, so it will increase the chance of using it as often as you should!

How to clean your face

  • Wash your face every day and after exercising. Using your fingertips, wash with a mild cleanser and lukewarm water, then pat gently with a towel to dry.
  • Avoid harsh exfoliating scrubs or astringents that may leave your face irritated and red in appearance.
  • Do not squeeze blemishes, this leads to scarring.

Protect your skin

  • Wear sunscreen 365 days a year. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can damage the skin and accelerate signs of aging, even on cloudy days! Use a sunscreen or moisturizer that offers broad-spectrum protection with an SPF of at least 30.
  • A tan is not healthy – it’s physical evidence that your skin has been damaged. Getting a tan from the sun or a tanning bed exposes you to harmful ultraviolet rays that can damage the skin and accelerate aging. This leads to wrinkles, age spots, a blotchy complexion and even skin cancer. 
  • Damage to the skin from ultraviolet rays is cumulative. It is like a piggy bank. Every time your skin is exposed to these rays, damage is deposited into the bank. Eventually the piggy bank is full and the damage can be seen in the form of wrinkles, lentigines (brown spots), discoloration, red crusty spots (actinic keratosis), and skin cancers.

Your skin plays an important role in your overall health – be good to it!

Coastal Medical Primary Care Team

Coastal Medical Primary Care Team provides crucial services for your long-term health and well-being at several locations in Rhode Island.