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Posted: Thursday, January 22, 2015

Prevent dry, itchy winter skin with a daily dose of extra attention.

Medical Minute with Dr. Kemunto Mokaya

Our skin may be less visible in winter, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t use some extra attention to stay healthy. Blount Memorial dermatologist Dr. Kemunto Mokaya explains.

“Dry, flaky winter skin is not inevitable, and by following some gentle skin care tips, you can keep your skin moist and supple, even in the cold, dry winter,” Mokaya says. “Start by using warm, not hot, water when bathing or showering. Although it feels good and can be relaxing, hot water removes the skin’s natural oils more quickly. Also, limit bath or shower time to five to 10 minutes. Spending more time leads to excessive stripping of the skin’s natural oils. It is ok to shower every day if the right techniques are used, but not more than once a day.”

Mokaya also recommends caution when choosing soaps, which are designed to strip oils from the skin. Avoid perfumed soaps or products containing alcohol. Instead, try gentle soaps such as Dove or Tone, or alternatives to soap such as Cetaphil or Aquanil. In addition, she suggests avoiding the daily use of loofahs or washcloths, which contribute to removing the skin’s protective layers and oils. Mokaya also suggests using cleansers only on areas that require cleaning such as the armpits, groin, feet and other parts with visible dirt.

She adds, “When you get out of the bath or shower, gently pat the skin with a soft towel or let it air dry. Rubbing with a towel undermines the protective horny layer of our skin. Also, use a moisturizer on your damp skin to lock in the water from the shower, and help keep skin supple. Moisturizers should be applied at least once daily, even if no bath or shower is taken.”

To help keep skin nourished throughout the day, Mokaya offers six quick winter survival tips:

  1. Keep moisturizing cream in your pocket or bag to use after handwashing.
  2. Use lip balm several times daily to soothe chapped, dry lips.
  3. Cover up skin with gloves and scarves to prevent excessive dryness.
  4. Use a humidifier at home to keep air moist.
  5. Avoid wool and synthetic clothing if these fabrics irritate the skin.
  6. To soften extremely dry feet or hands, apply petroleum jelly to the skin at bedtime, and wear gloves or socks overnight.

If following the above tips doesn’t help improve excessively dry skin, make an appointment with a dermatologist. Severely dry skin also could indicate a skin condition, an underlying health problem, a reaction to a medication; or another health issue. To schedule an appointment with Mokaya, call 865-984-3864.

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