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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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  • June 22, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    As the weather gets warmer, getting back in shape can be easier with lots of fun outdoor activities from which to choose—whether walking, biking, swimming, or golf. Many common summer ‘chores’ also can be great for your health— from mowing the lawn to raking, cleaning house, washing your car, and even gardening.

    “Many of us know that gardening can help you relax and lower your stress hormones by
getting you out in the fresh air and away from technology,” says Karen Kansler, MA, RN, nurse wellness coordinator in the Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital. “You’re ‘off the grid’ and able to smell and feel the earth.”

    She adds, “Gardening also is considered a moderate cardiovascular exercise, burning between 150 and 300 calories per hour. This is especially true if you’re weeding, digging or planting—activities that take more energy than watering flowers. To get the best workout, you should switch sides when using your hands so you aren’t just getting exercise on one side of your body.

    “It’s a great way to get moving, plus it helps with your flexibility, your balance and your sensory perception,” Kansler explains. “As you bend your knees, you’re exercising your quads and glutes (your thigh and buttock muscles).”

    Kansler notes that—as with most activities—it’s good to take the proper precautions. “Don’t overdo it and make sure you stretch before, during and after your activity, especially early in the season. Also, be sure to wear sunscreen and protect your knees. If you have arthritis, gardening can be good for your hands, but there are also many adaptive tools, such as stools on wheels, etc., for those with limited flexibility. Just remember to balance rest with periods of activity. Please don’t garden for a two- to three-hour stretch without a break.”

    An added health benefit of gardening is enjoying
the fruits and vegetables you planted. For people in urban areas or those who can’t kneel down to garden, containers can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors and ‘reap’ the other rewards you’ve ‘sown’.

    How Many Calories Are You Burning?

    Here's an approximate count of the calories you can burn:
    Activity Time Calories
    Gardening  1 hr. 150 to 300
    Washing/drying the car 1 hr. 330
    Dancing 30 min. 230
    Leisurely biking 1 hr. 280
    Cleaning house 1 hr. 330
    Sleeping 8 hrs. 300

     This article appeared in the summer 2016 issue of Good Health. Read more articles from this issue.

    Location Information

    The Good Health Center
    MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
    2nd Floor, O'Neill Building
    5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
    Baltimore, MD 21239

    Receive Free Gardening Gloves

    Click below to register for a free pair of gardening gloves. View our list of local community gardens in Baltimore.

  • June 21, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    The President's Award has been presented to
  • June 20, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Baby Boomers at Risk for this Silent Disease

    Most people who have hepatitis C, a viral infection of the liver, have no symptoms until the disease has caused significant liver damage. That’s why it’s important for those at higher risk—including Baby Boomers, people born between 1945 and 1965—to be screened. Left untreated, hepatitis C can put you at higher risk for cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and eventual liver cancer. The good news is that new treatments are available that involve only swallowing pills for two to six months, with a 90 percent cure rate. The oral medication has almost no side effects.

    MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital’s new Hepatitis Clinic makes it easy for patients who have hepatitis C to get these effective new treatments. Open every Wednesday morning in the Good Health Center, the clinic offers experienced care, a comfortable setting and convenient parking. Lawrence Mills, Jr., MD, chief of Gastroenterology at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, explains, “The new treatments are fabulous. In March 2016, the FDA approved a new treatment geared to those on dialysis and by late June of this year, a new medication will be available that treats all of the different types of hepatitis C.”

    He adds, “I evaluate people who are positive for hepatitis C and send their data to a specialty pharmacy that contacts their insurance company to see if they will pay for the new therapies. The good news is that insurers will pay for the vast majority of patients with chronic hepatitis C.” MedStar Health’s liver disease specialists also offer comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for all types of acute and chronic liver disease.

    In addition to Baby Boomers, people at higher risk for hepatitis C include those with: tattoos, HIV and intravenous drug use, as well as patients on dialysis and healthcare providers. Ask your doctor about getting screened for this ‘silent’ disease.

    Signs of Chronic Hepatitis C

    While you may have no symptoms, common ones include:

    Abdominal pain Fatigue
    Itching, skin rash Jaundice (yellowing)
    Loss of appetite Nausea
    Even if you don't have symptoms, you're still contagious and may pass the virus on to other people.

     This article appeared in the summer 2016 issue of Good Health. Read more articles from this issue.

    Location Information

    The Hepatitis Clinic at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
    The Good Health Center - O'Neill Building, 2nd Floor
    5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
    Baltimore, MD 21239

    Get a Referral

    Click below to learn more about our Hepatitis Clinic or call 443-444-3991 for a referral to the Clinic.

    Gastroenterology Specialists

  • June 17, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    As we reflect on Father's Day, we realize that it should be defined as much more than the gift of a tie or a “World’s Best Dad!” mug – although those are great, too. We consider Father’s Day to be a celebration of fatherhood. It’s a time to honor the dads who forge those special bonds with their children that carry on through adulthood, as they share life lessons and create memories.

    The importance of fathers – and family – is something that is very close to our hearts here at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Not only do we see families come together within our own walls, we are very blessed to have children and their fathers working together, side-by-side, as valued members of our own MedStar Washington Hospital Center family.

    Winston and Camala Evans-Ellis – a perioperative services assistant for over 20 years and a communications center supervisor, respectively – are two such individuals. They are a father and daughter who we are very lucky to have as members of our team. So in honor of this holiday, we asked them a few questions about their relationship and the importance of fatherhood.

    Camala, tell us a little bit about what you love about your own father, Winston?

    To say I love my dad is an understatement. I wish everyone had a dad like mine, because he is the definition of the word. He puts family first. He is a hardworking, caring and compassionate.  He will go out of his way to make others happy. Winston is my super hero!

    Winston, what have you found to be the most rewarding part of being Camala’s father?

    Camala is very special to me. She is a good person. It is rewarding for me to see how she embodies the values that her mom and I have instilled in her. She is loving, caring and works hard. I am very proud to call her my daughter.

    How do you celebrate Father’s Day?

    My siblings and I have an annual dinner to celebrate our dad. 

    Winston, what’s the best piece of advice you have for new or soon-to-be fathers?

    I would tell them that they are receiving the best gift ever. Take care of your children by always putting them first. Teach them valuable life lessons like how to love and care for others.   

    What does it mean for you to work together?

    Even though we don’t work together and rarely see each other while we are here, it is comforting to know that we are just a few steps away.  

    What do you love about working at MedStar Washington Hospital Center? Would you recommend it to others?

    We are proud to work at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Every day here is an opportunity to make a difference. We would recommend MedStar Washington Hospital Center to anyone that is in need of great health care or a job.  

    To Winston and all of the other great dads out there – under our own roof and across the community – we salute you. Happy Father’s Day from all of us here at MedStar Washington Hospital Center!

    Have any questions?

    We are here to help! Contact us for information about our services or to schedule an appointment. Call us at 202-877-3627.

  • June 07, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Retired Admiral Tim Heely shares his thoughts about receiving a heart transplant
  • June 03, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Alberto Gomez shares his experience being treated for advanced heart failure