Don’t let winter take toll on skin

By Evelyn Gilbert Manziello
For Living & Being
Poughkeepsie Journal, November 2011

With the cold weather quickly approaching, it’s time to start prepping your skin for the season. Winter can be particularly punishing to your delicate outer layer, drying it and sometimes even leading to more troublesome conditions. The following expert tips will helpyou keep your skin looking summer fresh even when you’re shivering while shoveling snow.

Stay moist: “As soon as the cold weather starts people come in with dry skin. Left untreated, it becomes eczema, which is a dermatologist’s nightmare,” says Dr. Hara Schwartz, a dermatologist in Fishkill, noting that patients often request medication for the condition. While medicine is usually effective, it’s only a temporary fix. “You have to take care of the real problem-dry skin.”

Schwartz suggests people soak in a bathtub for 15 minutes each day.

“Your skin is like a sponge. It absorbs water,” she adds. “Sit there untilyou look like a human raisin, and when you come out, rub a small amount of Vaseline on your body to seal in the moisture. Then you’ll be filled with water.”

She adds while some people shy away from Vaseline because of research linking petroleum-based skin-care products with a cancer risk, Dr. Schwartz doesn’t feel it’s a concern.

“You’d have to absorb massive amounts,” she said, noting that the amount absorbed by regular usage is much smaller over a lifetime than what has been suggested can present a health risk.

Keep up the screen: Just because you’re not hanging out at a beach or a park doesn’t mean the sun can’t damage your skin."Don’t bedeceived. In the winter, you get a lot of sun because of the reflection (from the snow),” Schwartz said.

“Pick a sunscreen that has the highest number SPF and either titanium or zinc, which are physical blockers," she advises. “Then open it and smell it. You have to pick oneyou like or you’re not going to wear it every day.”

Use protection: In winter, we often forget to put on our gloves, but don’t skip this step if you want healthy-looking hands.

“Put your gloves on before your hands are freezing to prevent frostbite,” said Dr. Hendrik Uyttendaele, a dermatologist and owner of Hudson Dermatology in Poughkeepsie and Fishkill.

You should protect your feet properly as well, he advises.

“The cold temperature induces constriction of the blood vessels, decreasing the circulation to your digits. This can worsen eczema,” Uyttendaele said.

Take a dose of D: Vitamin D is an important hormone for skin health. ”Take vitamin D supplements if your doctor tells you you’re deficient, which is common during winter months,” Uyttendaele said, noting you should ask your doctor to recommend a dosage.

Vitamin D3 is produced in the skin through the action of ultraviolet light.In order for us to have enough in our systems, we have to expose our arms and legs to thesun for10 minutes three times a week.

“During wintertimes in northern climates, many of us don’t expose our skin to natural sunlight this frequently, and consequently many of us don’t produce sufficient levels of vitamin D3,” he explains.

Home help: Many people spend a lot of time inside during the winter. Keeping the air in your house moist is often difficult, but very important during this season. Since heat can dry and damage your skin, you need to improve your indoor environment or your appearance may suffer.

Sandy Tonyes, lead aesthetician at The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, recommends investing in humidifiers to help moisten the air and protect your outer layer.

Face it: Don’t forget to moisturize your face properly as well as your body, Tonyes advises. “Oils such as avocado, almond and jojoba are wonderful as they create a protective barrier on the face without clogging the pores,” she said, noting that jojoba oil is particularly good as its chemĀ­ ical composition closely resembles that of our skin’s natural sebum.

Uyttendaele warned that you should always use a moisturizer on your face made for that particular area of your body. “These are non-comedogeneic (not acne causing) and often contain an SPF.”

Mix it up: You can give your countenance an extra bit of protection against the harsh winter by mixing up your own moisturizing treatment at home. The following is an easy and delicious-sounding, facial mask recipe provided by Tonyes, geared towards those with dry winter skin.

Facial mask: Combine 1/2 cup of raw honey, which gently exfoliates and attracts and retains moisture, and one avocado, which is hydrating, in a bowl. Mix it up. Apply to clean skin and leave on for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with warm water. Follow with a moisturizer, preferably one with avocado, almond or jojoba oil.

(Note: Regular honey can be substituted for raw honey. However, Tonyes said, raw honey is preferred because it's not pasteurized and contains more active enzymesand vitamins.)

Evelyn Gilbert Manziello is a writer and editor based in Kinderhook. She has written for and edited a number of health-related magazines. Contact her at