Are your hot showers damaging and drying out your skin?

Ahhhhh!….Everyone loves a nice, long, hot shower either to help wake up in the morning or just relax a little in the evening before sleeping.  But beware …long hot showers as well as dry indoor heating especially in the winter can reduce the lipids and oils in your skin that act as a protective barrier to seal in moisture. This is further exacerbated in the winter by the frequent transitions from hot, dry, indoor heat to the cold, dry outdoor air. Furthermore, in some especially sensitive individuals such as those with atopic dermatitis and eczema, problems with dry skin can be a year round issue that requires constant attention.

What can you do to minimize your risk of dry skin? Here are 10 simple tips:

  1. Take shorter showers – less than 10 minutes.
  2. Use lukewarm water rather than hot water.
  3. Use soapless products and moisturizing soaps (like Dove, Cetaphil, or Cerave cleanser) which will be less likely to damage and strip your skin of its lipids.
  4. Follow the three-minute rule: Apply a full body coat of a simple, fragrance free moisturizer within three minutes of patting dry to lock in moisture. Some excellent moisturizers are Cetaphil, Aveeno, Cerave, and Lubriderm for sensitive skin. Moisturize again 12 hours later.
  5. Some body areas such as the legs are especially prone to dry skin; try using an oil based moisturizer (such as petrolatum or vaseline) or a moisturizer with an alpha hydroxy acid (such as amlactin lotion) for more persistent dry areas.
  6. In the winter, wear gloves, scarves, and ear muffs to protect these areas from the drying cold air.
  7. Lips need to be protected as well. Simple petrolatum (vaseline) is among the best lip moisturizers. Carry it with you and moisturize as needed. See our tips for lips here.
  8. Cut back on products that will dry your skin such as certain acne medications and anti-aging products (e.g, benzoyl peroxide,salicylic acid, and retinoids) during the cold weather months as they can exacerbate dry skin problems.
  9. Avoid dryer sheets and use laundry detergents that are fragrance free and color free to minimize irritation to your skin by residual chemicals on your clothes.
  10. Hands are especially prone to dryness. Carry a hand moisturizer with you and apply it to your hands after each time you wash your hands.

If untreated, dry skin can actually lead to inflamed skin called “dermatitis”. These rashes are characterized by red, itchy patches that require medical treatment. In pigmented and ethnic skin, hyperpigmentation may result after the rash resolves.

As always, an ounce of prevention will keep your skin healthy and always protect your skin and moisturize.

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