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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:
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    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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  • December 08, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    Michael Sherman, DO, director of MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Nephrology and Hypertension Clinic, says solving problems and working with people motivated his choice of a career in medicine. Yet, he also felt it was important to get a better feel for the profession to which he would dedicate his life.

    So before enrolling at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Sherman spent a few years in Washington, D.C., working as a research assistant for a non-profit health policy organization.

    “There is a non-science side to medicine that I found particularly appealing,” he explains. “It also complemented my interest in osteopathic medicine, which helps you think holistically about a patient’s condition.”

    Attracted by the opportunity to live and work in the nation’s capital, Dr. Sherman came to the Hospital Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital to complete his residency in Internal Medicine, and his fellowship in Nephrology. Because treatment decisions for chronic kidney diseases are rarely simple, Dr. Sherman uses his diverse training to help patients consider all issues as they choose a path forward.

    A Diverse Approach to Medical Care

    Dialysis, for example, is an “intensive therapy that requires commitment,” Dr. Sherman says. “It’s life-sustaining, but it can also be a hardship. We want to be sure what we’re doing truly improves the patient’s quality of life.”

    Nephrology also provides Dr. Sherman opportunities to help patients tackle these challenges in a variety of settings, from ICU cases to those who visit for outpatient treatment. “I enjoy following these patients for years, and building a relationship with them,” he adds.

    Dr. Sherman also serves as medical director of Inpatient Hemodialysis at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital, a program that provides on-site dialysis treatment for patients undergoing acute rehabilitation programs.

    “This ensures patients get the dialysis treatment they need without cutting into their rehab schedules or delaying their recovery,” he says.

    Life Outside the Hospital

    Dr. Sherman’s family life provides plenty of practice with managing schedule. With three children, ages 3 to 9, he and his wife devote most of their weekends to going from one activity to another. And having received his undergraduate degree from Duke University, Dr. Sherman is understandably an avid college basketball fan.

    “I was one of the ‘Cameron Crazies,’” he says, referring to the Blue Devils’ famed passionate student fans. “From time to time, I’ll get together with my college friends to watch games and relive those days.”

  • December 06, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    It’s a standard part of most doctor visits: “Tell me about the medications you’re taking.” Some people quickly list a few prescriptions or pull out a list. But patients often don’t think to tell us about ointments or creams they’ve purchased to self-treat skin conditions.

    Two of my colleagues and I recently wrote about an experience we had with a patient who came into one of the MedStar outpatient dermatology clinics for help with atopic dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema. This patient had purchased a topical cream that they recognized from back home at a local African store. We found that this medication contained a prescription-strength steroid, and that the cream also was available online with no prescription required.

    Taking or using any topical medication without knowing exactly what’s in it and how it could interact with other drugs you’re on is extremely dangerous. It’s critical to check with your doctor before purchasing topical medications to avoid potential harmful effects from products. 

    The dangers of using medications made outside the U.S.

    It’s easy to think that a medication available without a prescription is safe. But every drug carries the risk of side effects, including topical medications.

    Every #medication, even if it’s available #OTC or online, carries the risk of potentially harmful #sideeffects. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strictly regulates medications sold in the U.S., but drugs manufactured in other countries and sold here or online may not carry the same level of regulation and oversight.

    Topical products, such as creams or lotions, may not affect just the area being treated. Depending on the strength of the medication, the size of the affected area and how thick your skin is, these medications can cause local side effects and potentially affect the whole body, just like medications taken as pills or in other forms.

    How to lower your risk

    The most important advice I give my patients and that I can share with everyone is to tell your doctor about all skin products, lotions and beauty products you use, in addition to your prescription and over-the-counter medications. Write a list of all your medications and bring it with you every time you go to the doctor, or use a smartphone app to keep track of what you take. This is vital information your doctor needs.

    On the flip side, it’s just as important for all doctors to ask their patients about all the medications they take, including over the counter products. If your doctor doesn’t ask, initiate the conversation. This is especially important for patients who take many medications, as we want to avoid potentially harmful interactions.

    Although it’s no substitute for talking to a doctor or pharmacist, basic information about medications is available online. A credible resource patients can use is the Drug & Supplements information from MedLinePlus, which is operated by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This database provides information about how to use medications, special precautions, possible side effects and more.

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    If you come across a drug that’s potentially unsafe, you or your doctor can report it to the FDA through the MedWatch reporting form. My colleagues and I did this with the cream my patient bought for eczema, along with reporting it to Amazon. Within a couple of days, the product was no longer available to buy on Amazon.

    Your doctor is there to protect you, but you have to have open and honest conversations about the medications you use, including topical creams, so you can work together and avoid harmful side effects.

    Get the latest news and developments in healthcare by subscribing to the Center View blog.

  • December 04, 2017

    By Regina Tosca, LICSW

    People sometimes mistakenly think that accepting palliative care means they have to stop receiving other medical treatment. However, palliative care is a specialty service that can be provided at any point during a patient’s illness. That means that patients can receive palliative care while also receiving treatment to cure disease or extend their lives.

    Related reading: 3 common misconceptions about palliative care and hospice

    Our team frequently gets requests to help with pain management. Our doctors and pharmacists have expertise in recommending medications for pain. Our social workers and chaplains provide patients with information on non-medical approaches they can use to manage their own pain.

    In addition to pain relief, we also help with other symptoms of illness or treatment. For example, we often see patients who have severe constipation, a common side effect of opioid-based pain medications that might be prescribed following surgery. Research in our field has shown that standard laxatives, such as colace, don’t relieve this type of constipation. We see some patients who report abdominal pain and it turns out they’ve gone days without a bowel movement because they’re on prescription opioids. In these circumstances, we educate not only providers on more effective means for treating symptoms, but also patients and families so they can advocate for better symptom management as they continue treatment.

    In addition to addressing the physical symptoms of illness and treatment, our team also helps patients and families sort through feelings associated with being sick and in the hospital. Services such as spiritual care, supportive counseling and relaxation therapy are based on patient and family individual needs, and can help patients and loved ones cope with feelings of fear, sadness, frustration or grief.

    It’s never too early for palliative care

    The goal of palliative care is to maximize quality of life when patients are facing serious illness. Toward that end, we are working within the hospital to promote our involvement earlier in hospitalization or during evaluation for treatment planning. We call this approach “upstream palliative care.”

    An area where this is working well is in the advanced heart failure program, where we meet patients who are preparing to undergo bypass surgeries, heart transplants or implantation of heart devices to extend their lives. We work alongside the advanced heart failure teams to help manage symptoms, but also to have discussions about the “what ifs,” the potential complications, and what patients and families might want if those occur. This is an aspect of palliative practice known as “advance care planning.” These can be difficult conversations, but they’re important as sometimes things don’t work out as we hope. It’s preferable, in our minds, to discuss the “what-if” scenario before facing a medical crisis.

    We often work with patients who have chronic and progressive conditions, such as kidney disease, dementia or COPD. Over time as these conditions progress, patients come to the hospital more frequently for other problems related to the underlying disease. In these cases, we talk with patients and families about how being hospitalized all the time affects their lives, and whether a different plan of care, which may include hospice, would provide them with a better quality of life.

    An important aspect of palliative care is to help both patients and medical teams consider the big picture. For example, we work a lot with patients who have advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, which are progressive and incurable. Often, families will bring patients to the emergency room because they have stopped eating or getting out of bed, both of which are expected complications as the illness progresses. When this happens, families might ask about feeding tubes or home physical therapy. There are cases in which these interventions may make sense. However, when they don’t, we talk to families about options for less aggressive or invasive means of caring for their loved ones.

    It’s about making sure our patients understand their options for care and can make informed choices. The earlier we’re brought into the process, the more options our patients can choose from—so they can live their lives on their terms.

  • December 03, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    As part of the MedStar Health commitment to our associates and our goal of supporting continuous learning and professional development, the following classes are now open for registration through Organizational Effectiveness. These courses are open to all MedStar leaders and associates and are held at multiple locations.

    To participate in one of the courses, log into and register for a scheduled session at a MedStar location near you. For more information on these Organizational Effectiveness programs, please contact Helene Leclercq-Buchwald at or Fawn Hall at

    All classes begin at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. (except Talent Manager webinars) at various MedStar Health entities. Locations are noted in the SiTEL Learning Management System.

    Title Description
    The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity™
    (SiTEL Course Li-014190)

    This two-day workshop inspires leaders and associates to apply a process that will dramatically increase their ability to achieve their highest priorities.

    Audience: Leaders and Associates

    The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Foundations Edition™
    (SiTEL Course Li-017297)

    This one-day workshop helps leaders and associates, especially frontline and mid-level workers, become empowered with new knowledge, skills, and tools. Participants will learn to be more accountable, confront issues, work as a team and raise the bar on what they can achieve.

    Audience: Leaders and Associates

    7 Habits of Highly Effective People 4.0 Signature Edition™
    (SiTEL Course Li-018634)

    Renowned as the world’s premier personal leadership development offering, the new two-day workshop, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Signature Edition 4.0 aligns timeless principles of effectiveness with modern technology and practices. No matter how competent a person is they will not have sustained lasting success unless they are able to effectively lead themselves, influence, engage and collaborate with others, and continuously improve and renew their capabilities. These elements are at the heart of personal, team and organizational effectiveness.

    Audience: Leaders and Associates

    Leading Across Generations™
    (SiTEL Course Li-017294)

    This one-day workshop gives leaders a profound understanding of the differences between generations, and the tools and skills to tap into the unique contribution of each generation and bridge generational gaps in the workplace. Leaders will also recognize the importance of putting those differences to work in finding more creative solutions to problems; fostering robust, productive dialog; and engaging team members in giving their highest and best contributions.

    Audience: Leaders only

    Leading at the Speed of Trust™
    (SiTEL Course Li-018632)

    Leading at the Speed of Trust is a one-day workshop that raises trust from an often ignored asset or liability to a strategic advantage in the marketplace. Doing business at the speed of trust dramatically lowers costs, speeds up results, and increased profits and influence. This highly interactive workshop engages leaders at all levels in the real work of identifying and closing the trust gaps that exist in organizations

    Audience: Leaders only

    Presentation Advantage™
    (SiTEL Course Li-017296)

    This one-day workshop helps leaders and associates consistently deliver highly successful presentations.

    Audience: Leaders and Associates

    Project Management Essentials for The Unofficial Project Manager™
    (SiTEL Course Li-017295)

    Knowledge workers and leaders have quietly slipped into the role of the unofficial project manager. This one-day workshop will help participant’s consistently complete projects successfully. They will learn to implement a disciplined process to execute projects and to master informal authority to inspire the team

    Audience: Leaders and Associates

    Speed of Trust – Foundations Edition™
    (SiTEL Course Li-018633)

    In a work setting of low team trust, people’s unseen agendas or motivations generate suspicion and ultimately hinder getting things done. Guarded communication, speculation and disengagement slow productivity and fuel frustration. But when individuals trust each other—and are trusted by others—communication improves and productivity accelerates as attention is redirected toward team objectives. The Speed of Trust – Foundations team building one-day workshop helps individual contributors identify and address “trust gaps” in their own personal credibility and in their relationships at work. This workshop is designed to help associates increase personal credibility, increase trust with key stakeholders and exhibit behaviors that increase trust.

    Audience: Leaders and Associates

    Peer Today, Boss Tomorrow: Navigating Your Changing Role
    (SiTEL Course Li-007011)

    This class helps new leaders move from peer to boss by applying four strategies to help make the transition. This is a one-day workshop.

    Audience: Leaders only

    Talent Manager Comprehensive Training Webinar

    This two-hour interactive session is a comprehensive class on Talent Manager for leaders and associates. The first 75 minutes is for both groups, and covers log on and off; navigation; writing goals; adding action steps to a goal; writing notes; and writing self-evaluations. This includes time for questions and answers. The remaining 45 minutes is for leaders and covers cascading goals; filling out review forms; using the team overview function to sign forms; and keeping notes on direct reports' performance.

    To register for any Talent Manager session, please go to From the catalog, click the drop-down arrow next to the class you want and pick your session.

    Definition of Leaders: MedStar Health leaders are defined as supervisors, managers, directors, AVPs, VPs, Senior VPs, presidents, and executive directors, with or without direct reports.

  • December 03, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    In April 2018, leaders from pharma, biotech, clinical research organizations, health care organizations, advocacy groups and the FDA are convening to deliver on the promise of patient-centric clinical research and healthcare.

    Bridging Clinical Research & Clinical Health Care Collaborative brings together industry leaders from Pharma, biotech, clinical research organizations, health care organizations, advocacy groups and the FDA to actualize a solution to increase patient and physician participation in clinical trials.

    Keynote speakers include Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and T.J. Sharpe, cancer survivor and patient advocate. Additional speakers and panelists will hold sessions on Bridging Regulatory, Bridging Technology, and Bridging People and Processes.

    Review the full agenda or meet the speakers. To learn more, please visit

    Bridging Clinical Research & Clinical Health Care Collaborative
    April 4-5, 2018
    Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center
    National Harbor, MD

  • December 03, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    Abstract submissions for the seventh annual MedStar Health Research Symposium are now open! 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. 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.

    All MedStar Health providers, researchers, residents, and fellows are encouraged to submit abstracts for presentation. All Abstracts must be submitted through the Symposium Abstract Submission Portal. Please read carefully the submission instructions and detailed guidelines on the Abstract Submission Portal prior to submitting your abstract. Submissions close at 11:59 pm on Monday, January 8. Contact if you have any questions.

    Only selected abstracts will be presented as posters at the Symposium. Poster selection will be determined by the Scientific Review Committee. The committee will seek to achieve a balanced distribution of submissions for presentation at the Symposium, based on scientific writing, research fields and participation from multiple MedStar Health sites/departments. You must attend the Symposium on April 30, 2018, in order to present.

    On Monday, April 30, 2018, join researchers, residents, and fellows at the Bethesda North Marriott & Conference Center for the annual Symposium, with Professional Development and Advancement Sessions, resident and fellow oral presentations and a keynote address. Learn more at