Caring for Your Winter Skin

WebMD Live Events Transcript

The cold and wind outdoors and the dry, heated air indoors can wreak havoc on your skin. What can you do to keep your skin healthy during the winter months? Ask the dermatologists! Katie P. Rodan, MD, and Kathy A. Fields, MD, joined us on Jan. 20 to answer your questions about winter skin care.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR:
Welcome to WebMD Live. Much of the country is in the grip of wintry weather. What kind of problems does that create for our skin?

RODAN:
It's dry, itchy, cracked skin, especially on the legs, fingers and face. It happens because of the low relative humidity in the air and when you're outdoors it's cold, dry, and windy, which zaps the moisture from your skin. Then when you go indoors you have the heat turned on, and the indoor room temperature is also warm and dry, removing the last little bit of moisture in your skin. The answer is twofold: one, the environmental temperature outside; then inside, because of the radiant heat, the climate is dryer and hotter.

MEMBER QUESTION:
How can I keep my skin from looking like lizard skin in between showering and lotions?
I drink water, but it doesn't seem to help, I use lotion all the time... as soon as it dries my legs look just like they have never seen lotion.

FIELDS:
The first problem is the soap you may be using. Soaps are surfactants, which can strip your top hydrating lipids on the skin, so you should be using a soap substitute, called moisturizing soap lotions, which come in a liquid form. These two-phase cleansers-moisturizers are excellent to use in the winter. Number two, you should apply your moisturizer immediately after the shower while your skin is damp. Apply moisturizers lavishly.

MODERATOR:
What should we be looking for in a moisturizer?

FIELDS:
There are many moisturizers today: soy-based products, oatmeal-based products, theramide-based products, hydroxy lactic acid, alphahydroxic or even urea-based products. There's a huge list of possibilities that when you apply immediately after a shower, hydrate your skin and lock moisture in the barrier of the skin which has been stripped by the shower, the natural skin barrier.

RODAN:
The question also refers to drinking a lot of water to hydrate your skin. This is a common myth, that you can hydrate your skin by taking in copious amounts of water. We're not like a plant that wilts and then sucks up with a little extra H2O. You want to drink adequate water so you're not thirsty and your thirst mechanism will be your most important guide. If you're severely dehydrated it may show in your skin, however, this is quite rare. The bottom line is drink enough water to satisfy the thirst mechanism but don't overdo it in the hopes of reversing your dry skin.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Can I use a moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid on top of Retin-A?

FIELDS:
Hyaluronic acids can be used over Retin-A. It's a humectant that draws moisture from the air and helps lock in moisture on the skin. They are generally light weight and not heavy and may need reapplication for sufficient moisture.

RODAN:
Just one comment about the use of Retin-A during the wintertime. Retin-A and retinol may be slightly drying and irritating for the skin, particularly in the wintertime. Therefore, if you find that your skin is getting so dry and no moisturizer seems to help, back off on your use of retinol or Retin-A. For example, instead of using it nightly, you may want to use it only every other night, and use a heavier night cream moisturizing agent in the alternate nights.