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Dry Climate = Dry Skin

Tips for Smooth, Healthy, Hydrated Skin

Maggie Hong Jul 9, 2018

Living in the arid climate of the Intermountain West can often feel like punishment for your skin. Think of the last time you felt your skin tighten as you stepped out of a hot shower during winter. Or when you returned to Utah from a balmy vacation destination and felt yourself dry up while fumbling for lip balm and moisturizers.

For most, dry skin feels like a time-consuming annoyance. But for many people, chronically dry skin can result in eczema — a secondary complication that produces an inflamed, itchy rash that keeps them up scratching at night. Dermatologist Dr. Jared Heaton of Legacy Dermatology in Bountiful, Utah, sees patients every day for some form of eczema; however, he sees a notable surge of such patients in the winter.

“When you live in a desert climate, you are already prone to dry skin,” Heaton says. “In the winter, when we run the heat in the house, the air becomes even more dry.”

The skin of people prone to eczema has less filaggrin — a substance that helps maintain a moisture barrier. Chronic eczema sometimes causes the skin barrier to become compromised to the point that bacteria like staph can enter the skin and cause an infection, explains Heaton, who sees that most commonly in children and diabetic patients who are more susceptible to skin infections.

Following are tips from the doctor on how to have smooth, healthy, hydrated skin.

Regimen for Healthy Hydrated Skin

1. Get a Humidifier
For starters, if your home does not have a central air humidifier, Heaton recommends getting a stand-alone humidifier for your bedroom. “It doesn’t need to feel like Hawaii, but a humidifier will help to put some moisture content in the air,” he says.

2. Don’t Use Abrasive Body Soaps
“Traditional cleansers we grew up with are very alkaline and oil stripping. You feel really clean because they take all the oil off your skin,” Heaton says, “but your skin really needs some of its natural content to maintain a healthy skin barrier.” For the body, he recommends Dove because it is less alkaline. For the face, he prefers foaming and hydrating cleansers. 

3. Drink Lots of Water and Eat Fresh Produce
Keeping our bodies hydrated with lots of water and eating fresh produce are not just sound nutritional practices, they are good for the skin. Fruits and vegetables add water to our bodies because of their natural water content. Heaton also agrees with the general recommendation of drinking eight glasses of water a day. 

4. Apply Skin Cream Daily
Applying skin cream once a day is a critical component in preventing dry skin. The best time to apply it is just after toweling off from a shower. Skin is still damp and more readily absorbs the cream. Over-the-counter eczema creams are available for people with dry skin. Heaton’s favorite is CeraVe Cream. Vanicream and Cetaphil are also trusted brands. Any of these creams contain important lipids that give back the barrier protection and moisture the skin needs.  

Aging Gracefully in Dry Climate

If you suspect that you are aging more quickly living in a drier climate, you may be right. “Skin does look younger and better in places of humidity because of the moisture content in the air,” Heaton says. “You will look physically older in a drier climate as wrinkles are more noticeable.” However, attempts to age gracefully by applying the daily skin regimen above will make a huge difference, he asserts.

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