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Our Take: Dermatology expert offers advice for dry, itchy winter skin

The coldest months of the year have arrived and that means having to put up with dry, itchy skin.

Or does it?

We reached out to our experts at Beacon Medical Group Dermatology for advice. We wanted to know what exactly causes our skin to feel dry in the first place, how to moisturize and to know when it might be time to see a doctor for skin irritation.

Here is our Q & A with Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Evelin Keultjes, FNP-BC, our newest dermatology provider who is currently accepting new patients at our South Bend and Granger dermatology office locations.

  1. Why does winter tend to dry out our skin?

When the temperature drops, the humidity in the air drops. This can cause the water in your skin to evaporate at a quicker rate than in the summer months. We are also indoors most of the time and the furnace can cause our skin to dry even more. Using humidifiers that bring moisture back into the air, and moisturizing every day to provide a barrier for our skin, can help prevent this from happening.

  1. Is dry skin more common in older people and why?

Yes, it is. As we get older, our perception of thirst actually decreases and we don’t realize we are thirsty as often. Limited intake of water can cause skin to become dry. Drinking the recommended amount of water — 2 liters, or half a gallon — can prevent this from happening. Certain medical conditions can also cause the skin to become dry and irritated. So you should visit your primary care provider and dermatology provider on a yearly basis. Our sebaceous glands (oil producing glands) are less efficient as we age, as well, so we need to replace some of the naturally-produced skin oil with moisturizers.

  1. Are there medical reasons to worry about dry skin?

Certain medical conditions can accompany dry skin and worsen with time. Itchiness is the most common symptom, but the skin also becomes more susceptible to infection. It is important to apply moisturizer daily to prevent these conditions from worsening. If the condition does not improve with daily moisturization, schedule an appointment to see a dermatology provider. We can help determine whether your dry skin condition is limited to the skin or if there are other internal medical issues that could potentially be arising.

  1. Will drinking more water or eating certain foods make skin less dry?

Drinking the recommended amount of water will help nourish the skin, plus it is good for your body. Decreasing salt intake will help, too.

  1. What about showers during the winter when your skin is dry?

It is best to take warm, tepid showers during the winter. Hot showers take moisture away from the skin at a quicker rate. Moisturizing immediately after showering helps bring moisture back to the skin.

  1. When should you apply lotion? How often should you apply lotion?

Ointments and creams are actually more effective than lotions. They should be applied two times per day for maximum benefit.

  1. What kind of moisturizer should we be using?

Avoid moisturizers that contain fragrance since they can irritate the skin. Ointments and creams are best, and we recommend products that you can squeeze out of a tube or scoop out of a jar.

  1. When is it time to see a dermatologist?

It’s best to see a dermatology provider on a yearly basis and for any skin-related concerns. Beacon now has two convenient locations for our patients — Main Street and Ireland Road — and we often have same-day appointments available.