Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Got the Itch?

If you've been caught doing a dance like this, you just might have the
"Winter Itch"....

In this case, I am referring to the itch caused by dry skin.  Some people are affected more than others, but every winter about this time I get such dry skin.  This year, it seems everyone's got the "Winter Itch".

If you're moving here from another area with a different climate, you may be shocked to learn that this negative literally comes with the territory.  So, you may as well develop a plan.

Here are some tips to hopefully provide you with some relief:
*  Add Humidity: The "Winter Itch" is caused by cold, dry air - so if you're moving into a new house, recognize the value of one that has a whole house humidifer.  If you can't find a house with a whole house humidifier, and you can't afford to purchase one, consider visiting your local drug store and buying one or two small humidifiers for your bedrooms and areas where you spend the most time.  Not only will this help with the dry skin condition, but it will moisturize your sinus passages and can help keep you healthier by helping your epidermis plump up and do it's job - to protect all your body parts from the evil germs trying to get inside to attack you and make you miserable.
*  Stop using soaps!  Harsh cleansers, antibacterial and deoderant soaps are the worst, but most soaps(even so called "moisturizing soaps") will have a drying affect on the skin, so skip them entirely or use them sparingly, avoiding areas where your skin is the driest.
* Choose your bathing routine knowingly:  Baths are better for your skin than showers, Tepid water better than hot, and Shorter better than longer.  Then, apply your life.  I am a mom of 4, I have no time for baths, but in the winter there is nothing that makes me feel more relaxed on a daily basis than a LONG, HOT, shower, and you have to balance the health of your skin with the health of your mind. 
*  Add oil! Add oil (non perfumed) to your bath, or do like I do and apply baby oil while in the shower.  I used to put it on after I showered, but it felt too greasy and drove me crazy.  So, now I apply it with a bath sponge, which both removes dead skin and applies the baby oil. By removing dead skin, it feels less "itchy" to me, although experts do not recommend scrubbing your skin while wet or dry.  Other suggestions I've not tried include milk or oatmeal baths.
* REapply... people are often surprised to learn that most lotions only temporarily relieve dry skin, and when it wears off in a few hours, your skin is likely drier than it was before you applied the lotion... so skip it.  Creams are better for your skin, and oils like petroleum jelly are actually very good for rebuilding that outer layer of skin.  The thing about petroleum jelly is that it FEELS heavy on your skin, so I reserve using that for the very worst areas of dry skin; and I use creams everywhere else.  Both wear off far too fast, so REAPPLY them every few hours.  Claritan and Benedryl both make creams that provide quick relief to itchy skin.
*  Protect!  Protect your skin, especially your face and lips (areas where your skin is thinest, and yet most exposed). Cover your face using scarfs, hats, face masks and eye glasses as much as possible when you will be out in the elements.  Use chapsticks and creams daily, and reapply often if you are outside in winds, sunshine or especially blistering cold.... and DON'T lick your lips or allow your toddler's dripping nose to run - this skin will get very, very sore, very, very quickly and can bring a child to tears, and even some adults....which by the way causes your eyes, nose and mouth to "leak" taking even more of a toll on your red, burning, chapped skin.
*Try an inside attack:  Drink extra water (double your regular intake), which will help produce more moisture in your skin.  Other suggestions include drinking camomile, dandelion or peppermint teas.  Eat more yellow and orange vegetables and fruits, as these contain nutrients known to improve skin health, and eating them raw is best.  Follow general "healthy living" advise, like avoiding eating fried foods, drinking alcohol, coffee or sodas, consuming caffeine, or smoking, all of which rob your skin of moisture and nutrients, among having other detrimental affects; and be sure you're getting the right balance of vitamins by taking a multivitamin supplement.

If you've tried "everything" or your dry skin doesn't have obvious causes (like a weather change) or it seems red, infected or severe, go see your doctor.  Dry skin can also be a symptom of many other issues that might need to be evaluated by a professional... and serious cases of dry skin may warrant a prescription intervention.

Remember, your epidermis (aka your skin) is the largest organ in your body and has a critical function - keeping your parts inside and the germs outside.  So, when it's suffering, you soon will be, too.  Take care of your skin and it will take care of you.

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