By Stacie Jones
North Idaho winters bring outdoor fun, snow-covered landscapes, and festive traditions. But for many people, the colder weather also brings uncomfortable skin problems. Alicia Ogram, M.D., a dermatologist who joined Kootenai Clinic this fall, offers these tips to help keep your skin healthy during the upcoming winter months.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
“Winter brings its own set of skin issues, primarily dry skin. Extra hydration is very important,” Dr. Ogram said.
Healthy skin cells contain natural lipids (fats) that seal in moisture. Exposure to harsh winter weather causes damage to these lipids, leading to dry, itching, cracking skin. To help prevent excessive drying, Dr. Ogram said to apply a thick moisturizer immediately after showering (within three minutes) to lock in that extra hydration.
For the body, she recommends a cream or ointment that contains ceramides, which are lipids that help the skin seal in moisture. And for the face, a product with hyaluronic acid, which has a “tremendous” ability to hold water. People who suffer from dryness and itching can treat both problems with a moisturizer that contains pramoxine or camphor.
Establish a Good Routine
A good skin care routine is key to healthy skin all year round. Dr. Ogram said to start the morning with a gentle facial cleanser, followed by an antioxidant serum (with at least 10 percent vitamin C) and moisturizer.
“In the winter, it’s really important to use a cleanser that’s more hydrating; stay away from harsh scrubs with microbeads and drying soaps, such as those with antibacterial properties,” Dr. Ogram said.
In the evening, use a gentle cleanser and a retinoid cream — such as prescription tretinoin or over the counter retinol — and a moisturizer. Retinoids are vitamin A-derived creams that unclog pores, speed healthy skin cell turnover, and stimulate new collagen production, Dr. Ogram explained.
And don’t forget the sunscreen.
“Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can skimp on sunscreen,” Dr. Ogram said. She recommends using a daily sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) and reapplying every two hours if you’re outside. Snow reflects the sun, so be especially diligent when skiing and enjoying other winter sports.