MedStar Health blog : MedStar Health

MedStar Health Blog

Featured Blog

  • 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

All Blogs

  • August 30, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    The MedStar Health Research Institute recognized Cynthia West, manager for the Phoenix Field Office, as the recipient of the 2018 Second Quarter SPIRIT of Excellence Award. Cynthia oversees the Phoenix, AZ, location of the Research Institute, working with local teams and communities on the long-running STRONG HEART study.

    Cynthia was nominated by Celina Garza on behalf of Phoenix Field Office Staff: Tanya Molina, Sharon Taho, Diane Hollowbreast, Juanita Poorthunder, and Ditis Fallis. The nomination highlighted Cynthia’s dedication to the SPIRIT values in service to the participants and her associates. “Our participants are happy to visit our office because of the welcoming atmosphere Cynthia has created with her positive attitude -that is, in fact, contagious!” the nomination form shared.

    Cynthia has connected the Field office to the community through outreach, service, and events. She has encouraged two associates to pursue training and certifications to offer community workshops. This connection to the community helps to strengthen the work that the team is completing.

    According to her team, Cynthia has great communication skills and has built many relationships with communities and tribal leaders with her positive attitude, integrity, and respect. “Teamwork makes the dream work and Cynthia has certainly been an awesome Team Leader and an example to the rest of the staff,” said the nomination form.

    The SPIRIT Award is given to recognize and reward one associate (management or non-management) each quarter, who excels in Service, Patient First, Integrity, Respect, Innovation, and Teamwork. Learn more on the SPIRIT StarPort page or contact

    Phoenix Field Office team photo (from left to right)

    • Tanya Molina – Tohono O’odham Nation
    • Sharon Taho – Ft. McDowell Yavapai Nation/Hopi
    • Diane Hollowbreast – Gila River Indian Community
    • Celina Mahinalani Garza – Native Hawaiian
    • Juanita Poorthunder – Navajo/Sioux
    • Cynthia West – Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma
    • Bernardita Fallis – Filipino
    • Not pictured: Darren Calhoun, PhD - Shoshone/Arapaho
  • August 30, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Did you know that MHRI has a policy that governs how you should respond if you are notified by a government agency that your research will be audited or inspected? The organizational policy, titled “Responding to Government Inquiries” can be found on StarPort here. There is also a corresponding procedure which can be found on StarPort here.

    The research overseen by MHRI is subject to many different federal and state laws, regulation and guidance. MHRI will assist researchers to respond appropriately to all inquiries from government agencies for audits and inspections of research activities.

    If you are contacted by a government agency to notify you of an audit or inspection, you must contact appropriate individuals of the audit or inspection. At a minimum, this includes your Scientific Center Administrator and the Research Compliance Director.

    MHRI has the expertise to help guide you through an audit or inspection and respond to the audit or inspection appropriately. Please contact the Research Compliance Program at

  • August 30, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Congratulations to all MedStar researchers who had articles published in August 2018. The selected articles and link to PubMed provided below represent the body of work completed by MedStar Health investigators, physicians, and associates and published in peer-reviewed journals last month. The list is compiled from PubMed for any author using “MedStar” in the author affiliation. Congratulations to this month’s authors. We look forward to seeing your future research. 

    View the full list of publications on here.

     Selected research:

    1. Clinical effects of reported synthetic cannabinoid exposure in patients admitted to the intensive care unit.
      The AmericanJournal of Emergency Medicine, 2018. DOI:1016/j.ajem.2018.08.048
      Tatusov M, Mazer-Amirshahi M, Abbasi A, Goyal M
    2. The effects of emotional states and traits on time perception.
      Brain Informatics, 2018. DOI: 1186/s40708-018-0087-9
      Lehockey KA, Winters AR, Nicoletta AJ, Zurlinden TE, Everhart DE
    3. Synchronous Independent Papillary Thyroid Carcinomas in Struma Ovarii and the Thyroid Gland With Different RAS
      Journalof the Endocrine Society, 2018. DOI: 10.1210/js.2018-00132
      Gomes-Lima CJ, Nikiforov YE, Lee W, Burman KD
    4. The Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion and utilization of discretionary vs. non-discretionary inpatient surgery.
      Surgery, 2018. DOI: 1016/j.surg.2018.05.007
      Crocker AB, Zeymo A, Chan K, Xiao D, Johnson LB, Shara N, DeLeire T, Al-Refaie WB
    5. A Hospital-Based Initiative to Reduce Postdischarge Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths.
      Hospital Pediatrics, 2018. DOI: 10.1542/hpeds.2017-0211
      Krugman SD, Cumpsty-Fowler CJ
  • August 30, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Bisphenol A (BPA) is a high-production-volume industrial chemical used in producing polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins used in consumer products, such as storage containers for foods and beverages, medical devices, and thermal paper. The predominant human exposure is from food containers. Low levels of monomer can migrate from these products and there has been much controversy as to the potential toxicity of this BPA exposure.

    FDA, under an Interagency Agreement between NCTR and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, has conducted a series of studies in the past decade to address data gaps the FDA Science Board identified. Pharmacokinetic studies across several species have indicated that BPA undergoes rapid and extensive metabolic inactivation in the gut and liver, with the degree of inactivation in young animals varying across species.

    Dr. Barry Delclos is a Research Pharmacologist at FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research. His early research efforts focused on chemical carcinogenesis and later shifted to toxicities associated with endocrine active agents and modulation of toxicity by dietary factors. Dr. Delclos has served as Principal Investigator on a series of studies conducted under an Interagency Agreement between FDA and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to evaluate aspects of the hypothesis that exposure to low levels of hormonally active agents, particularly during development, adversely affects human health, including reproductive function and carcinogenesis.

    Presented by
    K. Barry Delclos, Ph.D.
    Research Pharmacologist
    Division of Biochemical Toxicology
    FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research

    Thursday, September 13, 2018
    12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
    Learn more and register here.

    The FDA Grand Rounds are webcast every other month to highlight cutting-edge research underway across the Agency and its impact on protecting and advancing public health. Each session features an FDA scientist presenting on a key public health challenge and how FDA is applying science to its regulatory activities. The 45-minute presentation is followed by questions from the audience.

  • August 30, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Recently published research investigated the potential of a diabetes education program aimed at educating hospital inpatients to better manage their Type 2 diabetes by leveraging technology. “Redesigning Hospital Diabetes Education: A Qualitative Evaluation With Nursing Teams” was published in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality. The study sought to identify barriers to implementing a technology-based system, Diabetes to Go, to deliver diabetes survival skills education while patients are in the hospital.

    The collaborative research team included Kelly M. Smith, PhD and Kelley M. Baker, MA from the MedStar Institute for Quality and Safety; Joan K. Bardsley, MBA, RN, CDE from MedStar Health Research Institute/MedStar Corporate Nursing; Patricia McCartney, PhD, RN, from MedStar Washington Hospital Center; and Michelle Magee, MD, from MedStar Diabetes Institute/MedStar Health Research Institute.

    The study utilized focus groups and semi-structured interviews with nurses, nurse managers, and patient care technicians from three medical-surgical units and two behavioral health units. The goal was to identify barriers or concerns in implementation, and four themes emerged: educational content, platform usability, tablet feasibility, and workflow considerations. For each of the perceived barriers, the study team identified potential solutions to address them. It was also noted that there are specific challenges for education in a behavioral health unit compared to a medical-surgical unit.

    The study concluded that “challenges and opportunities exist for integrating tablet-delivered diabetes survival skills education into standard nursing care workflow on inpatient units” and noted that strategies for pragmatic implementation must address the key areas of concern.

    This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health—National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R34: R34DK109503). Dr. Smith also received funding from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UL1TR001409.

    Journal of Nursing Care Quality, 2018. DOI: 10.1097/NCQ.0000000000000349

  • August 29, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    We’ve experienced several heat waves on the East Coast this summer. It's important that we stay cool in order to avoid heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

    Heat exhaustion and heat stroke occur when your body starts to lose the ability to regulate its core temperature. Excessive exposure to heat can cause many symptoms, including:

    • Dizziness
    • Fatigue
    • Headaches
    • Excessive sweating
    • Nausea and Vomiting

    With heat stroke, your core temperature can rise above 104 degrees.

    In severe cases that progress to heat stroke patients can develop confusion, irrational thoughts, or seizures, which occur because the various body systems are shutting down. It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience these symptoms. To maintain a safe body temperature, your body has to get rid of excess heat.  Read on for six tips to help you stay cool this summer.

    Too much time in the sun can result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Check out Dr. Kevin Reed’s 6 tips to stay cool this summer, via @MedStarHealth
    Click to Tweet

    How to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke

    1. Stay hydrated

    Staying hydrated is key to maintaining a healthy body temperature, particularly during exercise. Drink plenty of fluids the day before and the day of physical activity. During exercise, keep a drink handy that contains salt, electrolytes, and small amounts of sugar, such as Gatorade or Powerade to replenish those substances you have lost while sweating.

    You tell us: What are your go-to drinks to stay hydrated in the summer? Tag us on Twitter @MedStarHealth #LiveWellHealthy.

    2. Get used to the heat

    If you spend most of your time in the air conditioning and suddenly try to run five miles outdoors, your body might not be ready for that kind of heat exposure. It’s safer to gradually expose yourself to activity outside during the summer.

    3. Maintain a healthy weight

    People who are obese are at much greater risk for heat-related illnesses. Carrying excess weight can affect your body’s ability to regulate its temperature and cause you to retain more heat. Talk to your doctor if you need help managing your weight.

    4. Wear appropriate clothing

    Limit sun exposure when you’re outside by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and light, loose-fitting clothing. Also consider bringing an umbrella, awning, or overhang to protect yourself from the sun.

    5. Be extra careful if you’re sick

    Infections such as the flu can cause your body temperature to spike. If you’ve recently overcome an illness, be cautious about the amount of time you spend outside and spend exercising for a couple of weeks.

    6. Use the buddy system

    If you’re older than 70, you’re more susceptible to heat stroke due to underlying medical conditions that can affect their body temperature. If you live alone or can’t get around well, the risk is increased, especially if your air conditioner breaks. Use the buddy system—find a friend or relative who can help when the temperature rises.

    7. Mind the temperature and time

    Keep in mind the time of day you’ll be outside, as early mornings and late evenings are the coolest times of the day. And always check the heat index, or the combination of the temperature and humidity levels, on a mobile app or online. When you see heat indexes in the high 90s or above, be especially careful about the amount of time you spend outside.

    Spending time in the sun is arguably the best part of summer. Make sure to use these tips to stay safe while doing so.

    Sunburn? Heat Exhaustion? Dehydration? MedStar eVisit Can Help.

    Learn More