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  • January 14, 2022

    By Allison Larson, MD

    Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast or spend the season curled up by the fireplace, the low humidity, bitter winds, and dry indoor heat that accompany cold weather can deplete your skin’s natural moisture. Dry skin is not only painful, uncomfortable, and irritating; it also can lead to skin conditions such as eczema, which results in itchy, red, bumpy skin patches. 

    Follow these six tips to prevent and treat skin damage caused by winter dryness.

    1. Do: Wear sunscreen all year long.

    UV rays can easily penetrate cloudy skies to dry out exposed skin. And when the sun is shining, snow and ice reflect its rays, increasing UV exposure. 

    Getting a sunburn can cause severe dryness, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer. Snow or shine, apply sunscreen before participating in any outdoor activity during the winter—especially if you take a tropical vacation to escape the cold; your skin is less accustomed to sunlight and more likely to burn quickly.

    The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

    That being said, if you are considering laser skin treatments to reduce wrinkles, hair, blemishes, or acne scars, winter is a better time to receive these procedures. Sun exposure shortly after a treatment increases the risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), and people are less likely to spend time outside during the winter.

    Related reading: 7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Skin in the Sun

    2. Do: Skip products with drying ingredients.

    Soaps or facial products you use in warm weather with no issues may irritate your skin during colder seasons. This is because they contain ingredients that can cause dryness, but the effects aren’t noticeable until they’re worsened by the dry winter climate.

    You may need to take a break from:

    • Anti-acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
    • Antibacterial and detergent-based soap
    • Anything containing fragrance, from soap to hand sanitizer

    Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer, which contains a high level of skin-drying alcohol, cannot be avoided; we need to maintain good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs. If your job or lifestyle requires frequent hand washing or sanitizing, routinely apply hand cream throughout the day as well.

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen a lot of people develop hand dermatitis—a condition with itchy, burning skin that can swell and blister—due to constant hand washing. Sometimes the fix is as simple as changing the soap they're using. Sensitive-skin soap is the best product for dry skin; it typically foams up less but still cleans the skin efficiently.

    3. Do: Pay closer attention to thick skin.

    Areas of thin skin, such as the face and backs of your hands, are usually exposed to the wind and sun the most. It’s easy to tell when they start drying out. But the thick skin on your palms and bottoms of your feet is also prone to dryness—and tends to receive less attention.

    When thick skin gets dry, fissures form. You’ll see the surface turn white and scaly; then deep, linear cracks will appear. It isn’t as pliable as thin skin. When you’re constantly on your feet or using your hands to work, cook, and everything in between, dry thick skin cracks instead of flexing with your movements. 

    To soften cracked skin, gently massage a heavy-duty moisturizer—such as Vaseline—into the affected area once or twice a day. You can also talk with your doctor about using a skin-safe adhesive to close the fissures and help them heal faster.

    Related reading:  Follow these 5 Tips for Healthy Skin

    4. Don’t believe the myth that drinking more water will fix dry skin.

    Contrary to popular belief, the amount of water or fluids you drink does not play a major role in skin hydration—unless you’re severely dehydrated. In the winter, especially, dry skin is caused by external elements; it should be treated from the outside as well. 

    The best way to keep skin hydrated and healthy is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment—not lotion—to damp skin after a shower or bath.
    Some people need additional moisturizers for their hands, legs, or other areas prone to dryness.

    While some lotions are made better than others, most are a combination of water and powder that evaporates quickly. Creams and ointments work better because they contain ingredients that can help rebuild your skin barrier. 

    Look for products with ceramide, a fatty acid that helps rebuild the fat and protein barrier that holds your skin cells together. The AAD also recommends moisturizing ingredients such as:

    • Dimethicone
    • Glycerin
    • Jojoba oil
    • Lanolin
    • Mineral oil
    • Petrolatum
    • Shea butter

    For severely dry skin, you can try a “wet wrap” technique:

    1. Rinse a pair of tight-fitting pajamas in warm water and wring them out so they’re damp, not wet.
    2. Apply cream or ointment to your skin.
    3. Put on the damp pajamas, followed by a pair of dry pajamas, and wear the ensemble for several hours.

    Dampness makes your skin more permeable and better able to absorb hydrating products. If the wet wrap or over-the-counter products aren’t working for you, talk with a dermatologist about prescription skin hydration options. 

    Drinking more water isn’t the answer to dry winter skin. The best solution is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment directly to damp skin. Get more cold weather #SkinCareTips from a dermatologist in this blog:
    Click to Tweet


    5. Don’t confuse skin conditions with dryness.

    Skin conditions are often mistaken for dry skin because peeling or flaking are common symptoms. Redness of the skin or itching in addition to dryness and flaking indicates a skin condition that may need more than an over-the-counter moisturizer.

    Skin cells are anchored together by a lipid and protein layer (like a brick and mortar wall). With very dry skin, the seal on this wall or barrier is not fully intact and water evaporates out of the skin’s surface. The skin will become itchy and red in addition to scaly or flaky. If you experience these symptoms, visit with a dermatologist.

    6. Don’t wait for symptoms to take care of dry skin.

    Be proactive—the best way to maintain moisture is to apply hydrating creams and ointments directly to your skin on a regular basis. Start by applying them as part of your morning routine. Once you get used to that, add a nighttime application. And carry a container of it when you’re on the go or keep it in an easily accessible location at work.


    You can’t avoid dry air, but you can take precautions to reduce its harsh effects on your skin. If over-the-counter products don’t seem to help, our dermatologists can provide an individualized treatment plan. Hydrated skin is healthy skin!

    Does your skin get drier as the air gets colder?

    Our dermatologists can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

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  • October 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    The MedStar Diabetes Institute was one of many groups that attended the Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes on the Mall in Washington, D.C., in September.

    Every 21 seconds, someone is told that they have diabetes. The walk, hosted by the American Diabetes Association, funds critical research, advances advocacy and helps to grow programs like Diabetes Camp and the Living With Type 2 Program. The team raised $9,000 and counting for the cause.

    The team included associates from the MedStar Diabetes Institute, MedStar Health Research Institute, patients at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and members of the local American Diabetes Association Chapter. Thank you to all who donated to support the team.

  • October 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Thank you to all the MHRI and MedStar associates who attended and participated in the 2018 Race to Beat Cancer 5K. This charitable event is one of the premier 5K races in Washington, D.C., and was held on Saturday, September 15, 2018.

    Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center is a regional leader and national model for patient-focused cancer diagnosis and treatment that provides the highest quality, and latest medical advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Thanks to the many sponsors and supporters, the event raised more money for cancer research than ever before. The goal for this year was $400,000 and they are just shy of the goal. Many thanks to the host, Four Seasons Hotel, Washington D.C., for its continued commitment and partnership to the patients and staff at Washington Cancer Institute over the past 18 years.

    Opportunities to contribute to advances in research are still happening in the area. Learn more about events in DC and Baltimore here.

  • October 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    At MedStar Health, patient safety is our highest priority. The most effective way to reduce the risk of contracting influenza (flu) is to get vaccinated. Even if you received a vaccination last season, immunity decreases over time, and therefore you must be vaccinated on an annual basis.

    Vaccination of associates reduces the risk of transmitting the flu virus to patients since healthcare workers are frequently linked as the source of flu in healthcare settings. You could have no flu symptoms and still be a carrier, and unknowingly spread it to patients, fellow co-workers, visitors, and your family.

    All MedStar associates, affiliated physicians, volunteers, students, contracted staff, and vendors are required to receive the influenza vaccination by November 28. If you are unable to receive vaccination due to medical contraindications and/or religious exemptions, you must submit an Influenza Vaccination Exemption Form by the October 31. To obtain an Influenza Vaccination Exemption Form, or more information about influenza vaccinations visit

    MedStar is committed to making the influenza vaccine as accessible to you as possible. Obtain your free flu vaccination from:

    • All Occupational Health offices across the system
    • Unit rounds in high-volume patient care areas
    • Peer immunizers
    • Clinics scheduled at various sites
    • MedStar Health Urgent Care locations

    Note: A valid MedStar ID must be presented in order to receive a free flu vaccination. PromptCare offices will submit documentation to Occupational Health.

    For more information about obtaining a flu vaccination, visit an Occupational Health office or go to

  • October 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    In the course of your research, have you thought of a new invention that could assist with patient care? Part of the MedStar Institute for Innovation, MedStar Inventor Services is here to help you develop your invention. They can help to transform ideas into commercial products through each stage of the INVENT process, from concept to market.

    Join them on Thursday, October 18, at the MIND Lab in the MedStar Health Columbia Corporate Office for two special events.

    Lunch & Learn

    12 noon to 1 pm

    How a MedStar doc’s idea about knee angles took a turn: What you KNEEd to know about FitSense and MedStar Inventor Services

    Rarely would you allow an entrepreneur, MBA-type to operate on your knee (or any other body part for that matter), just like we'd rarely advise an orthopedic surgeon to run a company. MedStar Health’s Dr. Carter Mitchell just might be the exception to the rule.

    Dr. Mitchell is also the Founder and CEO of Fitsense, Inc., a start-up company developing the Pinnacle, a wearable sensor that transmits knee angles to a smartphone or another device. Particular knee angles leave the joint susceptible to an ACL tear. With proper training and guidance, Pinnacle will help athletes learn to avoid these risky movements.

    Join us as Dr. Mitchell teaches us about wearable technology and the future of injury prevention and rehabilitation. You’ll also learn how Dr. Mitchell collaborated with the MedStar Institute for Innovation and its Inventor Services team to turn his idea into a reality and meet MedStar leaders who can help those with similar aspirations to innovate.

    Carter Mitchell, MD
    Director of Sports Medicine, MedStar Montgomery Medical Center
    Founder and CEO, FitSense Inc.

    Office Hours with MedStar Inventor Services

    9 am to Noon & 1 to 3 pm

    The MIND Lab occasionally offers “open office hours.” Stop by anytime (no appointments required) to meet subject matter experts and explore new ideas.

    The MedStar Inventor Services team works hand-in-hand with MedStar associates to transform your innovative ideas and discoveries into commercial products and services that advance health and improve the patient and family experience. Having good ideas is only one part of developing a product. MedStar Inventor Services will help you determine if your idea does not already exist, bring in experts to evaluate the clinical need, assess the market for the product, get it through the burdensome patent process, negotiate the terms of the license, and monitor the agreement to make sure the licensee delivers. All of this is at no cost to you AND if your product makes it to market you get 50% of revenue after expenses are recouped.

    Steve Kinsey & Marck Clerveau
    MedStar Inventor Services, MedStar Institute for Innovation

  • October 02, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    It’s normal to snore every now and then. But what if you, like millions of Americans, snore regularly night after night? Are you harmlessly sawing logs or could you be suffering from a potentially debilitating sleep disorder?

    “Forty-five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally. It is more common among men and individuals who are overweight and usually worsens with age,” says Jacques Conaway, MD, FAASM, medical director of the Sleep Centers at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital and MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.

    “Snoring may also be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which has been linked to health issues, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. So, it should not be taken lightly,” he says.

    Dr. Conaway notes that, all too often, snoring and sleep apnea are thought of as interchangeable. But not all people who snore have sleep apnea, while most people with sleep apnea snore.

    Snoring can be caused by a number of different factors, including:

    • Sinus infections or colds
    • Allergies
    • Alcohol
    • A deviated septum
    • Poor muscle tone
    • Throat and airway blockages

    “Snoring is a symptom of OSA resulting from a partial or full obstruction of the airway. These obstructions severely restrict or interrupt a person’s breathing, starving the body of oxygen and much-needed sleep,” Dr. Conaway adds. “This can cause other health issues, such as extreme daytime drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, depression, and anxiety.”

    The most accurate way to diagnose and treat a snoring problem is to meet with doctor. “Depending on the extent of your problem, a sleep study may be recommended. This analyzes how you sleep and how your body responds to issues related to sleep,” says Dr. Conaway. “Taking this first step prior to beginning any treatment prevents inaccurate self-diagnosis, inadequate treatment, and/or premature dismissal of the problem.”

    Treatment for snoring and OSA depends on what is causing it and ranges from lifestyle alterations, such as weight loss, a decrease in alcohol consumption, and changing sleeping positions, to nasal strips, oral devices, technologies that help keep the airway open, and even surgery.

    “It is vital to understand that even if you are not diagnosed with sleep apnea, snoring could still be adversely affecting your partner, the restfulness of your sleep, and your overall health,” says Dr. Conaway. “Talk to your doctor. There are treatments that can get your restful nights back.”

    For a free sleep mask or a sleep center referral, complete this form.

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  • October 02, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Most people know that exercise provides many mental and physical health benefits. It helps prevent heart disease and other chronic illnesses, improves mood, reduces stress, improves sleep, and more. But did you know that simply going outside to exercise could increase those benefits? Turns out, it can.

    “Outdoor exercise combines two health-enhancing activities: moving your body and getting outdoors,” says Karen Kansler, RN, nurse wellness coordinator in the Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital. “Plus, there are numerous ways to get your exercise outdoors. It can be as simple as a brisk walk around the block or a bike ride in the park. Even light gardening or other yard work is considered moderate physical activity.”

    Kansler notes that exercising outdoors offers some other appealing benefits:


    When you’re active outdoors your body is encountering a constantly changing environment. To keep up the activity at a consistent pace, you need to adapt to changes in your surroundings such as slight hills or obstacles you may need to dodge. So your body works harder than if you were running on a treadmill or using a stair machine.


    Lack of time, along with cost, are often cited as barriers to exercise. Navigating traffic, parking garages, and crowded locker rooms adds additional time needed to be active. Exercising outdoors can reduce these time constraints and it’s free. And, many outdoor areas include benches, trees, inclined roads, and even designated exercise equipment, allowing for a variety of resistance-training exercises.


    Moving outdoors has been shown to reduce anger and depression. Exposure to sunlight enhances vitamin D production, which may be partially responsible for this mood-enhancing effect. You don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefit. Even low-intensity activities will do.


    Two of the greatest benefits of outdoor exercise are the opportunity to connect with others in your community and connect with nature … vitamin “N.” Finish your bike ride at a local coffee shop, take an outdoor class, or set up a weekly walking group with friends. Moving, socializing, and just being outdoors is a great way to deepen your appreciation of the world around you, feel energized, and get your daily dose of vitamin “N.”

    Don’t let the prospect of outdoor activity scare you. If you’re new to exercise or just getting back into it, start with short exercise sessions and lighter intensity. If you have any health issues, talk to your doctor before starting. “I tell people to have a goal in mind, start slowly, and work up to their potential,” Kansler says. “Outdoor exercise can be adapted to anyone’s level of fitness.”

    For a free pair of gardening gloves and a daily workout card, complete this form.

    This article appeared in the fall 2018 issue of Destination: Good HealthRead more articles from this issue.








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