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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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  • September 29, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    Mark your calendars for the third annual Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) meeting.  Hear about the results from PCORI’s earliest-funded comparative clinical effectiveness studies and efforts to promote the use of those important findings in practice. The theme this year, “Delivering Results, Informing Choices,” sets the tone for what promises to be an exciting conference. Be part of the conversation about key trends in patient-centered outcomes research and connect with colleagues to share ideas for future research opportunities that will help patients and those who care for them make better-informed healthcare decisions.

    Keynote Speakers

    • Freddie White-Johnson
      Founder & President, Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation
    • Alan Alda
      Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, Stony Brook University
      Actor, Writer, Director
    • Harlan Krumholz, MD
      Harold H. Hines, Jr., Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine
      Member, PCORI Board of Directors
    • Trent Haywood, MD, JD
      Chief Medical Officer, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

    Tuesday, October 31 through Thursday, November 2
    Crystal Gateway Marriott 
    1700 Jefferson Davis Hwy
    Arlington, VA  22202

    Learn more and register on the PCORI website.

  • September 29, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    The 2017 International Conference to Promote Resilience, Empathy and Well-Being in the Health Professions:  An Interprofessional Forum is being co-hosted by the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Education (CENTILE) at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) and MedStar Health.

    The goal of the conference is to bring together educators, researchers, practitioners, faculty development leaders and academic policymakers to present and discuss the best practices and strategies to promote resilience, empathy and well-being in students, trainees, faculty, practitioners and caregivers across the health professions.

    October 22-25, 2017
    Georgetown University Hotel & Conference Center
    3800 Reservoir Road
    Washington, D.C., 20057

  • September 29, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    The Center for Innovation and Leadership in Education (CENTILE) is once again collaborating to offer Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) faculty and administrative professionals an opportunity to participate in the third cohort of the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) certificate program. Upon successful completion of this year-long cohort-based, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)-affiliated program, participants (called Fellows) will receive their nationally recognized certificates from the AAMC. 

    The LEAD program is targeted to early and mid-career faculty and administrative professionals. The year-long experience provides practical knowledge drawn from the best recognized theoretical models and incorporates best practices of effective leadership that are relevant to health science education processes and organizations. 

    For the application template, information and an overview of the program, see the LEAD web page. Applications are due no later than October 16, 2017

    A maximum of 5 faculty fellows will be selected from the pool of applicants. CENTILE will notify applicants of the decision by Monday, October 30, 2017. The required orientation is at 10:00 am on November 16, 2017. 

    If you have questions or wish to discuss the LEAD certificate program, please email Thank you for your interest!

  • September 29, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    Mark your calendars now for the 2018 MedStar Health Research Symposium. Hosted by the MedStar Health Research Institute and MedStar Health Academic Affairs, the MedStar Health Research Symposium is open to all members of the research community interested in learning more about research at MedStar.

    The Symposium offers the opportunity to connect with researchers, residents, executive leaders, and collaborative partners from across the region and our system to build meaningful relationships to further advance the health of our community.

    Monday, April 30, 2018
    Bethesda North Marriott & Conference Center
    5701 Marinelli Rd.
    North Bethesda, MD 20852

    The Symposium features:

    • Scientific poster presentations from across the system
    • Educational sessions hosted by experts from the MedStar Health community
    • Oral presentations from top scoring residents and fellows


    • 1:30 pm Professional Development and Advancement Sessions
    • 3:00 pm Resident Oral Presentations, Exhibit Hall, Scientific Poster Presentations and Keynote Speaker
    • 6:30 pm Post-Symposium Receptions

    Details on submission deadlines and registration will be coming soon. To learn more and view the 2017 Symposium video, visit

  • September 29, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    Thank you to all the MHRI and MedStar associates who attended and participated in the 2017 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 16, 2017.

    In 2017, more than $300,000 was raised for cancer research. All proceeds from the race were donated to the Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. These proceeds directly support research into the treatment and cure of cancer. The Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C., hosted this annual event. This race celebrates survivors and honors those who have lost their battles with cancer.

    Opportunities to contribute to advances in research are available through participation in other upcoming research walks. Learn more about events in DC and Baltimore here.

  • September 29, 2017

    By MedStar Health


    A collaborative investigation was undertaken to test the accuracy of wearable sensors during contact sports. “Video Analysis Verification of Head Impact Events Measured by Wearable Sensors" was published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine. The research team included Nelson Cortes, PhD; Andrew E. Lincoln, ScD; Gregory D. Myer, PhD, ATC; Lisa Hepburn, PhD, MPH; Michael Higgins, PhD, PT, ATC; Margot Putukian, MD; and Shane V. Caswell, PhD, ATC. The research was completed in collaboration with the Sports Medicine Assessment, Research & Testing (SMART) Laboratory at George Mason University in Manassas, VA.

    A women’s lacrosse player wearing the X-patch device behind her right ear during a competition; figure courtesy of Lacrosse Magazine.

    The goal of this study was to describe the frequency and magnitude of head impact events recorded by wearable sensors that were confirmed by video analysis. As wearable sensors are increasingly used to quantify the frequency and magnitude of head impact events in contact sports and with the growing concerns about the potential for long-term effects of multiple head injuries, data are needed to verify the quality and quantity of head impact events recorded by wearable sensors.

    The study included a cohort of thirty boys and 35 girls from high school lacrosse teams. Each participant was assigned a unique sensor that was labeled to correspond to his or her jersey number. The girls each had an X-Patch sensor affixed behind the right ear and the boys had a GForce Tracker sensor secured to the inside of the helmet’s shell at the crown. To corroborate the data from the sensors, a professional videographer was stationed at a high vantage point over the midfield line. The sensors and video were calibrated before each game to ensure precise date and time information across the multiple instruments.

    The study found that “65% and 32% of all head impacts recorded during boys’ and girls’ lacrosse games were verified as true game-related head impacts by video analysis, respectively.” However, the remaining 35% of boys’ and 68% of girls’ head impacts were not verified by video or were not part of the game action, suggesting a high rate of false-positive impacts and an overestimation of verified head impact events by the wearable sensors.

    “Our findings indicate that the wearable sensors are highly sensitive measurement devices that can record and classify head impacts that may not actually be head impacts,” the authors said in the article’s conclusions. The rate of false-positives indicated that the sensors were identifying other bodily impacts (e.g., shoulders, torso, arms).

    “These findings have practical implications for how sensors should be deployed and the existing data interpreted. Without meticulous procedures during usage, it is plausible that impacts measured during game days can be erroneously elevated because of the excessive false-positive rate,” the authors concluded.

    The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 2017. DOI: 10.1177/0363546517706703