Winter is a time for giving, gathering with loved ones…and dry, damaged skin.
That’s the truth for most of us in these cold, dry climates during this time of year. And while it’s more difficult to deal with, a few tweaks to your skincare routine can make all the difference!
Here to teach us exactly how we can protect our skin this season is Dr. Sara Lohser.
About Dr. Sara Lohser, MD, FAAD
Dr. Lohser grew up in Cleveland Heights, OH where she graduated with honors from Cleveland Heights High School. She comes from a family of proud Ohio State University Buckeyes, so it was no surprise when she chose to pursue her undergraduate degree there, earning a BS in Biology and BA in Spanish (both with Honors Cum Laude) in 2001.
While attending medical school at Case Western, Dr. Lohser was honored to accept a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellowship at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. As a Fellow, she provided research assistance to faculty investigators at UNC’s Cystic Fibrosis Pulmonary Treatment and Research Center. Throughout her education, professional training, and medical career, Dr. Lohser has always prioritized volunteer work.
She provided medical support and Spanish translation for a pediatric urologic surgery team during multiple medical mission trips to Guatemala and Honduras, she has volunteered her time at the Cleveland Free Clinic since she was an undergraduate student and has pursued other volunteer activities.
Showering and Washing Your Face in the Winter
You might not think it, but your daily shower and face wash might be doing more harm than good!
1. How often should I shower in the winter?
The key to showering in the winter is to take shorter showers and for some people decreasing the number of showers per week.
“Some patients take multiple showers a day, due to work related activities and / or workouts. Those people are more likely to suffer from noticeably dryer skin.”
Often dryer skin results in more itchy skin as well, this can create a problematic cycle.
2. Should I take a cold shower in the winter?
It may seem scary to take a cold shower in the winter, especially since we tend to go the opposite way, cranking that heat up as high as our skin can stand!
“While there is no need to take a cold shower, our tendency during the bitter cold winters of Northeast Ohio is to take very hot, very long showers. While this “escape” may feel good during the shower, the effects on your skin are not good!”
Taking warm (tepid) showers, and as mentioned shorter showers, is best!
3. When should I apply a moisturizer in the winter?
Another way to help beat winter dry skin, is how and when you apply your moisturizer and what type you use.
“The best method is immediately following your shower or bath, pat yourself dry (avoid rubbing the skin!), leaving some of the water on your skin. Then apply your moisturizer to help lock in the extra layer of hydration.”
As many of you may know, a walk down the lotion aisle of any drugstore can be overwhelming with options!
Key things to look for in your winter moisturizer:
- While lotions may do the trick in the summer, thicker options like creams or ointments will help combat dry or itchy or irritated skin during the winter
- Look for products that contain ceramides, which are lipids (fats) that are key components in preventing water loss. When ceramides are depleted and low, skin is more likely to be dry, itchy, and irritated. There are many products that have ceramides, ranging in prices but Cerave and Cetaphil Restoraderm are generally the easiest to find and reasonably priced. You can also often find coupons online or sales at local drugstores— I recommend that my patients stock up when they are on sale!
- Another ingredient to look for in your moisturizer is dimethicone, this also helps prevent water loss by forming a hydrating barrier
4. What kind of soap or shower gel should I use in the winter?
“Mild, gentle soaps and shower gels are best always but especially in the winter! Ideally avoiding things with fragrances and dyes as these can further irritate dry skin.”
5. What is the best face wash for dry or sensitive skin in winter?
The key to winter skin care is moisture. Since there’s already less moisture in the air, washing with a harsh, drying cleanser will only further the skin irritation.
Here are some options for winter face washes:
- Cerave offers a hydrating facial cleanser
- Neutrogena offers an ultra gentle hydrating cleanser and the Hydroboost is also a fan favorite.
- Cetaphil gentle cleanser has been around for many years and while it may be met with some criticism, it is a great inexpensive and very gentle option. I have had very sensitive skin throughout my life and it is still a go to product of mine.
The Best Skin Care Regimen for Winter
How you care for your skin in the winter versus the summer should be different (assuming you’re stuck in the dry, cold area like us!).
1. What is the best skin care regimen for my face during the winter?
Continuing your regular skin care regimen during winter is great. However, keep in mind you may have to make some small adjustments as often skin care and acne products tend to dry the skin.
“Especially if you are using a retinoid; these include prescription products known generically as tretinoin, or tazorac or other over the counter products listing retinol in the ingredients.”
Differin (adapalene) 0.1% is also in the retinoid family and was previously a prescription, it is now sold over the counter to help treat acne. Adjusting the frequency of these topical products can be key during the winter months.
Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid are other potentially drying ingredients found in many products.
2. Should you wear sunscreen in the winter?
Sometimes when we don’t see the sun shining for days on end in northeast Ohio, people may have a tendency to skip sunscreen. But using daily products with SPF included, like facial moisturizers or make-up, is a great way to ensure skin protection.
“Continuing to use SPF during the winter months also helps to ensure this habit is part of our normal routine, so we are always prepared/ covered on those hot summer days!”
3. How do I protect my lips in the winter?
Using a lip balm is key during the winter months, as with moisturizers, there are 100s of options! Having a daytime product, again with SPF is key. Then applying something a little thicker, like an ointment overnight can help with dry/ peeling lips.
“Aquaphor has been a longtime, well loved product, it does have lanolin (derived from wool bearing animals, think sheep) which can be a potential allergen for some people.”
Here are a few other options to protect your lips in the winter:
- Cerave healing ointment is similar but does not have lanolin.
- If lips are very dry/ peeling using an over the counter steroid, hydrocortisone may be helpful
- See a dermatologist
4. Should I see a dermatologist for dry skin?
Many patients suffer with increased dry, itchy, irritated skin and or cracked hands during winter months.
“If you are using moisturizers and follow the guidelines mentioned, ideally your skin will improve and winter skin issues will be a thing of the past! However, if dry, itchy, irritated skin persists definitely come see us at Apex Skin, where transforming lives through healthy skin is our goal!”
5. Can I get skin cancer in winter?
Unfortunately, skin cancer does not take any seasons off. Please remember to have your skin checked annually by your dermatologist, and more frequently if you have a history of skin cancer or atypical moles.
“I always advise my patients, never wait until your next scheduled skin check if you have spot your are worried or concerned about. If something is getting bigger, darker, changing in any other ways or symptomatic, itching, burning, bleeding; these are all reasons to have a spot checked.”
At Apex, we make it our priority to offer same or next day appointments for spot checks. We know that new or changing spots can be concerning and we don’t want our patients to be worrying or waiting!
Seeing an Aesthetician for Healthier Skin in the Winter
You don’t have to go through winter with unhealthy skin all by yourself. In fact, we’re here to help guide you in the right direction!
1. How can an aesthetician help me with winter skin?
At Apex, we have a team of outstanding aestheticians that can help tailor a plan specific to your needs.
We have two great product lines, ZO and SkinMedica, as well as many in office services and treatments to help combat your winter skin issues!
2. Does a “base tan” help prevent sunburns?
Many of us in Northeast Ohio take time during the winter months to escape the cold and head for sunshine and warmer weather.
“There is an important myth that needs to be dispelled— going tanning in tanning beds to get a ‘base tan’ prior to going to warm or sunny weather does NOT give your skin ANY added protection.”
Please know that going in tanning beds increases your risk of skin cancer dramatically and tanning beds should not be used.
Patients will sometimes say, I don’t want to go to the beach being so pale, I recommend spray tan and/or sunless tanning products to give your skin the color you desire!
Don’t forget to use sunscreen and re-apply!