Cutting down on the skin-cracking issue

11 Jan

By ALEX MATTHEWS — The Post-Star | Posted: Monday, January 11, 2010 11:50 pm |

‘Tis the season to feel uncomfortable dryness and most of us are in the thick of it.

“The best thing you could do is go on a nice trip to Florida,” said Dr. Stephen Verral of Gateway Dermatology in Glens Falls. “Unfortunately, most of us aren’t able to do that.”

And for many – skiers, snowmobilers and outdoor enthusiasts – winter is a time for play and our skin just needs to deal with it.

“That exposure to the extensive cold absolutely makes the skin worse. It dries it out and causes cracking,” Verral said. “Protect your skin as well as you can from the elements. If you’re skiing, wear a face mask. If your snowmobiling, cover your face, and if you’re just outside walking around, wear a scarf.”

Inside advice

Unfortunately, keeping your skin healthy isn’t as easy as covering up – the battle is also waged indoors.

Rachel Vaughn, an esthetician and co-owner of Rejuvinations Spa Services in Queensbury, said turning up the heat inevitably causes dryness.

“I know my home is in the 30 (percent relative humidity range) whereas the average home should be in the 50’s,” she said. Vaughn and Verral recommended humidifiers in the bedroom and warned against steaming-hot showers.

“The hot water actually dries you out more,” Verral explained. “There’s a protein in our skin called NMF, natural moisturizing factor. It’s what our body tries to produce when our skin starts to dry out. The steam actually sucks that right out.”

He said to keep the temperature lukewarm and moisturize before toweling off. Look for lotions containing ceramide, another water-absorbing protein, and pat rather than wipe yourself dry, he said.

In moisturizing at least once a day and more frequently as needed, Vaughn pointed out a new, effective ingredient: hyaluronic acid, which attracts and maintains moisture. She said it can come in the form of a serum to be applied before moisturizers.

Braving the cold

For those readying for a hardy day outside, Vaseline-based products containing petrolatum are best for preventing wind burn or frostbite, Verral said. “If you’re going to be skiing on the top of a mountain, the serum is just not going to cut it.”

He recommended Vaseline for skiers and those exposed to harsh conditions. “It absolutely helps,” he said. “It just feels gross.”

Vaughn made a case for Burt’s Bees products and body balms as thicker moisturizers to protect the skin. She said Vaseline can help heal chapped lips when applied at night.

Most importantly, Vaughn and Verral advocated sunscreen. Vaughn said to go no lower than SPF 30, while Verral pushed for 45.

“People forget that the sun is still shining on them,” Verral said, “and the reflection off the snow is actually worse than the sun shining directly on them.”

Closing remarks

Aside from lathering up in an array of oils and goops, removing dead skin cells through exfoliation is also key. Vaughn likened repeatedly moisturizing extremely dry skin to putting sunscreen on a pealing sunburn.

“If you’re not getting rid of all that flakiness… then all you’re doing is putting lotion on dead skin,” she said, recommending refined rather than gritty scrubs.

Facials can also be professionally done every four to six weeks to clear out blackheads and exfoliate, she said.

As a dermatologist, Verral recommends facials as often as once a month as well.

Finally, drink more water. “Typically (experts) say six to eight 8-ounce glasses a day,” Verral said. Another esthetician at Vaughn’s day spa, Anke Jenne, said people can aim for a gallon, or 16 cups.

“For every one cup of caffeinated beverage, you have to make up for it with two cups of water,” Jenne said.

That applies to soda, coffee and other dehydrating fluids such as alcohol.

“If you’re hung over, your skin isn’t going to be at it’s glowing best,” Vaughn said.

Original story: http://poststar.com/sports/cutting-down-on-the-skin-cracking-issue/article_53153ed4-ff36-11de-b72e-001cc4c002e0.html#ixzz1RwqnteND

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