Science & Technology/CAUTION: Dry Skin Ahead

Issue Date: 
February 5, 2007

Pitt’s Suzan Obagi offers tips on protecting

Winter weather finally has arrived in Western Pennsylvania, and with the colder, drier air and bitter wind, people must take precautions to care for their skin, says Suzan Obagi, assistant professor of dermatology in Pitt’s School of Medicine and director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Center.

“During the winter, people may notice that their skin becomes drier and itchier,” Obagi said. “The reason for this is twofold. First, the use of heaters takes moisture out of our homes, robbing our skin of the moisture it derives from our environment. Second, with the colder weather, we resort to using hotter water in our showers or baths, which further dries out the skin.”

To minimize drying, Obagi recommends the following:

• A humidifier can greatly increase the moisture level in homes. And while a hot shower may feel good on a cold morning, limiting the time spent in the shower can reduce the drying effects on the skin;

• Limit use of soap on the skin to the “dirty areas” of the body, such as the armpits and the groin. Water alone is usually good enough to cleanse the skin of the arms and legs without risking the drying effects of soap;

• Once you step out of the shower, quickly pat-dry your skin and apply a liberal amount of a moisturizing cream or ointment. The application of these agents while the skin is still slightly damp will seal in moisture; an

• The use of 12 percent lactic acid cream as a body moisturizer can help soften rough skin. Ask your pharmacist for creams with this concentration of the active ingredient, lactic acid.

Obagi also warns that people can still suffer skin damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays during the winter season. “Ultraviolet B rays increase in the spring and summer, resulting in sunburns, but ultraviolet A (UVA) rays are constant year-round, and these are what cause skin aging,” she said.

“UVA penetrates windows and shallow water. Therefore, daily sunscreen use is still a must. For direct sun exposure longer than 10 minutes, use a sunblock of at least 35 SPF to minimize further damage to the skin,” she added.

For more information, call the UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center at 724-940-7546.
skin from overdrying, sun exposure