July 31, 2014
Along with the slushy streets and freezing temperatures that go hand-in-hand with Chicago winters, expect an additional, more personal and equally annoying ailment: dry skin. “It’s universal in Chicago,” says Dr. Mary Massa, professor of dermatology at Rush Medical Center.
That’s especially true this winter, when the extreme cold weather came fast and hard and hasn’t abated.
The science behind winter dry skin is simple. There’s less humidity in the air both inside and out, which can zap water from your skin, says Dr. Carolyn Jacob, medical director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology in River North. “The terrible cold we’ve been having is just wreaking havoc on everyone’s skin,” she says.
So what’s a weather-weary Chicagoan to do aside from booking a one-way trip to Bermuda?
First, humidify. While you can’t do anything about the dry air outside, you can add water to the air inside with a humidifier. It might sound like overkill, but you may want to invest in a couple of humidifiers, adding one to the rooms in which you spend the most time.
Next you’ll want to eliminate those long, heavenly hot showers in favor of shorter, warm showers. Prolonged exposure to hot water can cause pores to dilate and result in additional loss of moisture.
“When you get out of the shower, pat your skin dry as opposed to rubbing the skin vigorously,” says Massa. Patting avoids stressing the skin further, plus it leaves it slightly damp — an ideal time to slather on some lotion. Jacob advises applying moisturizer within a minute of patting dry to lock-in moisture. Try cleansers and lotions that list ceramides (a type of moisture-trapping lipid naturally found in skin cells) as ingredients, suggests Jacob, who often recommends the brand CeraVe.
And if you’ve survived even one winter in the Midwest, you know your extremities — hands, feet, lips — suffer the most. To soothe (or prevent) dry, cracked heels, apply a thick cream at night and cover your feet with socks so the cream can soak deep into your skin. For lips, apply a balm with a few simple ingredients to avoid irritating the oil gland-free skin on your lips. And at all costs, avoid licking your lips — the wetness will evaporate and leave your pout drier in the process, says Jacob. Finally, take care of your hands by moisturizing every time you wash them and by always wearing gloves. “I keep a pair in the pockets every coat I own,” says Massa, a true Chicago winter veteran.