Winter Weather Wreaks Havoc on Skin and Lips

Weather Talk

POSTED: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 10:42am

UPDATED: Friday, August 1, 2014 - 11:51am

Some of the Things We Do to Stay Warm, Dry Us out Even More

I always wondered why my hands get so rough and I itch all over in the winter, until I sat through a lecture by one of my meteorology professors in college. He explained all about the environmental factors that caused our dry skin and chapped lips. We were all in Colorado, a dry climate and most of us were skiers, snowboarders or just weather geeks who spent way too much time outdoors staring at the sky! In today’s “Weather Talk” I will explain the environmental factors, what we do that makes our conditions worse and how we can prevent and heal our skin and lips.

Some of the outdoor weather causes of dry skin and chapped lips are quite obvious. Cold air and freezing temperatures, low humidity the wind and the sun are the top four environmental factors. Now as I mentioned in a previous “Weather Talk”: Does Your Health Depend Upon The Weather?
Mom was and is right when she says “Get back inside and put on a jacket before you catch a cold!” Dressing appropriately does help protect us from the cold and from losing our body heat.

Cold winter air means low humidity, both outdoors and indoors. The water content of the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin) tends to reflect the level of humidity around it.

The weather systems such as cold fronts tend to really whip up the chilly winter winds! The same way the wind steals heat from your body, it takes away moisture or dries you out as well.

The sun's ultraviolet rays can damage and dry you our especially your sensitive skin like your lips. Did you know the lips are a common site for skin cancer, since they don't contain melanin, a pigment (coloring) that helps protect skin from ultraviolet rays. There are some types of skin cancers that appear on the lips may be more serious and more likely to spread. The same damaging effects of the sun can damage your face and the rest of your exposed skin. The sun warms, but also dries you out.

OK, “What do we do that makes our skin conditions worse?” I touched on one previously, not wearing the appropriate winter gear or protective clothing. You need to wear a heavy enough jacket depending on the temperature. A hat or scarf slows down the escape of our body heat. Dressing in layers and even wearing long underwear if necessary! All this also causes us to slightly perspire which keeps the out layer of our skin, the epidermis moisturized.

Staying to long next to a heater, furnace or warm, cozy fire. The heat from these sources really takes away moisture from our skin and dries us out.
Do not get too close to the heat source, put yourself on the outer edges of the “warm zone” Also, make sure you moisturize your skin often.
You need to add humidity to your home. You can buy and use portable humidifiers or those that work with your heating system. Put a large pot of slow boiling water on the stove and stand near it. All these put moisture in the air that will be absorbed by your skin and hair.

This brings to another thing we do wrong that is surprising, when you take long, hot showers. Shorter showers not only conserve water and hot water for the next person, they also save your skin! The longer you hot bathe or shower the more you can strip your skin of natural oils. Do not use deodorant, antibacterial or perfumed soaps, and skin care products that contain alcohol. You need to use warm water and a mild, fragrance-free soap or moisturizing body wash. An 8 to 10 minute shower or bath is plenty of time. Then do not scrub yourself dry, pat dry, and moisturize while your skin is still damp.

We do not wear enough sun block. Before heading out, apply a moisturizing, broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to any exposed skin areas. Sunscreen protects from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Use at least an SPF 15 lip balm for your lips.

Speaking of lips, loss of moisture in lip skin causes chapped lips. The loss of natural oils may happen due to exposure to sun, cold dry winds or even repeated licking. Chapped lips are dry, red and painful. They may split and bleed causing immense discomfort. Simple care at home can avoid this condition. For example, using lip balm or Chap Stick regularly as prevention. Once you lips get chapped or cracked, use vitamin E to heal them. Stop biting your lips! Biting lips removes their protective covering which causes further drying. Use a soft toothbrush to softly buff your lips to remove the deposit of dead cells that will cause more drying and flaking. Vitamin E or Vaseline does help the healing process.

The winter environmental conditions can be harsh. If you can think of protecting yourself from the cold air, low humidity, wind and sun before you head out doors, your skin and lips will thank you. Who knew that some of the steps we take to stay warm can actually dry our skin even more.
Here’s hoping the rest of your Borderland cold season will be more comfortable, enjoyable and people around you will not think your constant itching is because you were in the dog house last night, so to speak.

Chuck DeBroder, Chief Meteorologist
KTSM, NewsChannel 9, NBC, El Paso, TX Chuck DeBroder NC9 @wxchuckNC9


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