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PREVENT

Skin secrets from a dermatologist

Cold weather is in full force here in Minnesota, and you know what that means—skin feels dry and itchy, and painful eczema flares up. You want to look and feel your best, so we asked dermatologist Elizabeth Farhat, MD, for some simple ways to help our skin feel better.  

Why does my skin feel drier in the winter?

Low relative humidity in heated indoor air may be the most important factor making your skin feel dry. 60 percent relative humidity is the ideal humidity to prevent dry skin, but achieving 30-40 percent humidity in the home may be a more practical goal. 

You can use a humidifier to increase the amount of moisture in the air, which in turn can decrease the feeling of dry skin.

Can using soap make my skin feel drier?

It may depend on the soap you're using. A major university tested 18 bars of soap and found that some of the "deodorant" soaps can be irritating. Dove® cleanser was judged to be the least drying, with Tone®, Caress®, Basis® and Neutrogena® products also placing in the "less drying" spectrum.

Are baths good or bad for dry skin?

Baths can be good for dry skin, provided a moisturizer is applied afterward to help retain water in the skin. It is important to apply a heavy moisturizer afterward, such as CeraVe®, Aquaphor®, Theraplex®, Eucerin®, Cetaphil®, Vanicream™ or Nivea®.  For extremely dry skin, your doctor can recommend other over-the-counter remedies or prescription solutions.

My kids' eczema seems to get worse in the winter. Is there anything special I should do for them?

Eczema starts out from dry skin, so liberal moisturization is the most important treatment to prevent skin from drying out.  The best time to moisturize is immediately after a bath or shower to trap some of the moisture from the water into the skin.  Thicker creams or ointments tend to be more moisturizing than lotions but can feel greasier.

I also recommend making "swimming pool baths" by adding 1/4 cup bleach to a bathtub once weekly and soaking for 15 minutes. This removes any bacteria from the skin that make eczema flare up.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

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