Skin protection during the winter months
Austin (KXAN) – As we approach the heart of winter, Central Texas residents will continue to face bouts of dry and cold weather. These harsh conditions can lead to irritated, dry, and cracked skin and lips.
Even as the days get shorter and the angle of the sun is lower, many people can and do get sunburn; especially those who travel to areas with snow or water.
Meteorologist Sean Kelly spoke with Dr. Emily Wood, a dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas, about the best skin protection practices for the coming months. You can read the interview below to find out more.
Sean Kelly, KXAN News: What are some best practices for your skin as we approach the heart of winter?
Dr. Emily Wood, Westlake Dermatology: So, you know, it’s very cloudy today. And in fact, some of the cloudiest days can actually spread even more UV radiation, or the harmful effects of the sun, on our skin. So it’s just as important to use sun protection even on cloudy days as it is this winter. So I recommend sunscreen every day. My personal favorites are mineral-based sunscreens, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They have been found to provide better protection against UVA and UVB rays.
Other things to remember are also protecting your eyes. So look for sunglasses that say they’re 100% protected from both UVA and UVB rays. In other areas, you want to protect your ears and the top of your head.
Kelly: So, tell me about some of the growth figures for melanoma over the past decade or so.
Wood: We are detecting melanoma earlier, so I think that is one of the reasons why melanomas are being diagnosed more and we are also getting better at detecting them. Unfortunately, you still know that one American dies from melanoma every hour, which is why it’s so important to have your skin checked by a board-certified dermatologist.
One really interesting thing that has come up in the last couple of years is a company called DermTech out of San Diego. And they actually came up with a sticker test where you can stick a small sticker on your skin to test the genomics of a mole. So you’re extracting genetic material with a sticker, which is amazing because it actually gives you more information than what we can see with our own eyes. So, when a patient comes in and has a few moles that are bothering him, this is a good first step we can take to determine if any of those moles need further treatment, up to a biopsy or surgery.
Kelly: A lot of people from Austin can go on vacation, maybe go skiing, go to Colorado where there’s so much snow. Does this increase your chances of getting sunburned while skiing?
Wood: Yes, so if you’re at a high altitude, then more UV rays will hit you, and then a lot of UV rays will be reflected off the snow just because it’s so white, so you’ll get more sun damage in the snow. The same is true if you are going on a tropical beach vacation. It just reflects the water in the sand. Therefore, it is very important to make sure that you use sunscreen while using sun protective clothing.
Kelly: It is obvious that in winter the air becomes drier. What are some tips to help keep your skin hydrated?
Wood: Therefore, I recommend a good moisturizer in cream form. Lotions traditionally contain a large amount of alcohol, which is very drying to the skin. Sometimes even plain Vaseline is perfect for moisturizing your lips. And then just with a gentle soap. So don’t use any exfoliating products. Something like Dove is just perfect for cleansing the skin, but not for removing the healthy barrier.