Preventative Health: Winter Skin & Hair Care Tips

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Preventative Health: Winter Skin & Hair Care Tips

As the weather gets colder, our first line of defense against the elements – our skin – tends to suffer. Colder weather is associated with dry skin in the winter, which can crack and bleed if not treated with proper care.

Dry skin can result from both exposure to wind and dry air outside, and dry air indoors because of the use of heating systems. In addition, as the temperatures outside drop, we may be more inclined to take hot showers and baths, which can dry out the skin’s natural oils, which keep it moisturized and prevent cracking. Washing your hands too frequently or using copious amounts of hand sanitizer can also dry out your skin.

However, just because these different factors contribute to dryer skin in the winter does not mean you have to shiver indoors, without heat, avoiding washing your hands, or taking hot showers in order to maintain healthy, moisturized skin in the winter. Instead, by understanding the importance of healthy skin and the common skincare problems, you can take simple preventative measures to have healthy skin this winter.

Some common winter skin problems affect the face and hands, as they are most exposed to the dry air. Symptoms include roughness, dryness, redness, and increased sensitivity. Regarding roughness, if your skin feels bumpy or noticeably cracking, that is a major sign of dry skin and should be treated using a therapeutic moisturizer and/or topical ointments to reduce any pain. In addition, if your skin is scaly-looking or flaking, that is also a sign of dry skin.

However, it should be kept in mind that a single application of lotion or moisturizing cream is not enough to treat this type of dryness. Furthermore, if your skin is noticeably red or pink and accompanied with itching or dryness, that may be a sign the area of skin will crack and potentially bleed soon. If you see certain areas of the skin are both red in color and sensitive to wearing clothing or even the slightest touch, this is a potential sign that the patch of skin is suffering from dryness and/or cracking.

To keep skin healthy and glowing, there are a number of things that can be done. Dermatologists recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen (at least 30 SPF) daily to protect the skin from the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun. To get the adequate amount of sunscreen, recommends using a “nickel-sized dollop to the face alone”. The face should be washed when you wake up, before going to bed and whenever you are sweating. Stress is unavoidable for college students, but it is important to exercise, since stress can cause flare ups of skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea.

In addition, cold weather and dry conditions indoors are also associated with brittle, unhealthy hair. Although, the more frequent bad hair day in the winter may not seem particularly dire, the condition of your hair can provide clues as to other physiological conditions. The presence of dandruff can be exacerbated by the dry indoor and outdoor conditions in colder weather. While dandruff can lead to itching, white dandruff is not particularly alarming. However, if the dandruff flakes appear greasy and yellow, that could be a sign of anti-inflammatory skin condition. Other consequences of poor hair care include brittle hair, split ends, and general frizziness.    

Dermatologists offer numerous advice on how to maintain healthy hair. For example, the frequency a person should wash hair depends on how much oil is produced by the scalp. For those who have very oily scalps, washing daily may be necessary while those who have drier scalps need to wash less frequently. However, if there are flakes in the hair, this may indicate that you are not washing enough, leading to dandruff and other scalp diseases.

Shampoo should be focused on the scalp, rather than on the entire length of hair. On the other hand, conditioner should be focused on the ends of hair. Try to avoid excessive heat, such as flat irons or curling irons; these should be used on a low or medium setting and should not be in contact with the hair for more than a couple of seconds. Try to take breaks from tight hairstyles, such as hair extensions, braids or pony tails. These restrictive hairstyles can often lead to increased tension in the hair shaft and cause breakage or even irreversible hair loss.

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