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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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  • May 05, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    Kathryn Curtin, RN, BSN, and Shannon Walters, RN, BSN, from MedStar Washington Hospital Center presented “Follow the Blue Feet: Nurse Implemented Post-operative MOBILITY Program” at the 2017 MedStar Health Research Symposium. The abstract poster was awarded the most outstanding scientific abstract at the event, selected from the over 400 abstracts submitted to the Symposium.

    The poster highlighted the evaluation and effectiveness of a nurse-led post-operative MOBILITY program that was implemented at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center Burn Center. The program’s goal was to increase the understanding for patients and nurses the importance of post-operative movement in the recovery process and in tandem increase patient satisfaction with mobility.

    The program was implemented in a 24-bed unit, with nursing staff completing both pre- and post-surveys. The program launched with several components, including nursing education on the program and assessment tools, placing mobility reminders in each patient room, and addressing mobility education during daily huddles on the unit. In addition, blue footprint stickers were placed in the unit hallways every ten feet, in order to empower patients with visual markers and to aid in nurse evaluations of patient mobility.

    Kathryn Curtin, RN, BSN, and Shannon Walters, RN, BSN, from MedStar Washington Hospital Center
    Kathryn Curtin and Shannon Walters being presented with their award by Neil Weissman.

    According to the poster, based on data collected, the objectives were achieved and showed a clear increase with significant percent changes: 233% change in the documentation of patient mobility, 60% change in patient satisfaction, 38.5% change in mobility assessment and 166.7% in patient mobility education.

    The work was completed as part of the RN Residency Program at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, advised by Hephzibah Sophie Edwin MSN, RN-BC.

  • May 05, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    Bonnie Carney was awarded the SPIRIT of Excellence Award for the first quarter of 2017. Ms. Carney is a Lab Research Associate in the MedStar Washington Hospital Center Burn Lab. Nominated by Lauren Moffatt, PhD, Laboratory Director, and Melissa McLawhorn, RN, BSN, Clinical Research Program Manager, the award was presented by Neil Weissman, MD, president of MedStar Health Research Institute.

    Many of the Burn Lab staff were on hand to watch the presentation, with Dr. Moffatt sharing a few words about why she chose to nominate Ms. Carney. “‘Ask Bonnie’ is heard many times per day around our lab and offices and she always takes the time to support her colleagues,” said Dr. Moffatt. “Bonnie prioritizes the integrity of our data and our research group over convenience and potential admission of mistakes.”

    MedStar Washington Hospital Center Burn Lab
    MedStar Washington Hospital Center Burn Lab at the SPIRIT Award presentation for Bonnie Carney (center)

    Jeffrey Shupp, MD, Director of the Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, was also on hand to speak to Ms. Carney’s commitment to the Burn Center and her associates. “Bonnie has turned down other jobs to stay with us at the Burn Center,” he said, “and most people also don’t know that she is also pursuing her PhD.” “She routinely spends hours of time at a clip working with a colleague on an experiment that is not related to any aspect of her own projects that she is most interested in. She views EVERYTHING we do here as 'ours' and believes that all of the studies and projects are important, as are the people doing them,” said Dr. Moffatt.

    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. Nomination submissions for the first quarter of 2017 are due by February 15. Learn more on the SPIRIT StarPort page or contact

  • May 05, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    In an effort to inspire the next generation of clinical researchers, the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (GHUCCTS) has created a Protocol Incubation Team (PRIT).

    GHUCCTS is a multi-institutional consortium of medical research institutions forged from a desire to promote clinical research and translational science. Through multiple partnerships and collaborations among the member institutions, GHUCCTS is transforming clinical research and translational science in order to bring new scientific advances to health care.

    This team will engage investigators at early stages of protocol development, guide study design, and promote rigorous feasibility assessment.

    Whether you are a seasoned researcher or new to the protocol development process, our team of experts will tailor their assessment and guidance to suit your specific needs in protocol development, study design, & feasibility assessment.

    Contact the team to learn more: or

  • May 05, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    The 6th Annual MedStar Health Research Symposium featured for the first time in its history research posters and oral presentation from residents and fellows across the system. The residents brought a fresh outlook on an array of topics and a peaked passion for advancing the size and scope of health care.

    The call for abstracts included an opportunity for residents and fellows to present their findings before an audience of their peers and executive leaders. After careful deliberation, 10 top residents and fellows were chosen from more than 150 resident submissions. First place for the PGY-1 to 3 was Travis Thompson, MD, a 3rd year Emergency Medicine resident at MedStar Washington Hospital Center (MWHC) and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. His presented his abstract “Increasing Ultrasound Evaluation in Renal Colic”.

    The research was a retrospective analysis of ultrasound use in the emergency department. The goal was to increase the number of ultrasounds being used to diagnose kidney stones as a supplement for computerized tomography (CT) scans in an effort to reduce the amount of radiation exposure to patients.

    “This research allows us to reduce that exposure as well as time spent and hospital expenses. Being able to advance the practice of medicine to all modalities can benefit all patients coming in,” said Dr. Thompson. “Especially when people present themselves younger and younger with things like cancer or multiple kidney stones, using CT scans can really add on to the amount of radiation exposure using received over time.”

    The strategy for this research was suggested by Jeffrey Dubin, MD, Chair of Emergency Medicine at MWHC, and tied to the “Choosing Wisely” campaign. “Choosing Wisely” is an American Board of Internal Medicine initiative to increase patient-provider conversations and reduce unnecessary medical tests, treatments, and procedures.

    “There were a lot of different projects highlighted and it showed the variety of research that could be done in different health fields as well as how they approached it and found resolve,” said Dr. Thompson of the Symposium.

  • May 05, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    At MedStar Health Research Institute, we recognize our nurses’ contributions as valued and respected members of the research team. They truly focus on the participants in our research as the whole person. This approach, which is the basis of nursing practice, improves the research experience and ensures quality outcomes.

    The American Nurses Association has designated 2017 as the "Year of the Healthy Nurse." It’s all about celebrating nurses like you who lead the charge for health and wellness. From May 6 to 12, we celebrate and thank nurses throughout our system for their commitment to patient and associate care and wellness. May 12 is celebrated as “International Nurse Day”, as designated by the International Council of Nurses in 1974. May 12 is the birthday of Florence Nightingale who is commonly referred to as the founder of modern nursing.

    Joan K. Bardsley, MBA, RN, assistant vice president at MHRI, serves as MHRI’s representative to MedStar’s Chief Nursing Council and the Nursing Research Council. Ms. Bardsley says, “I am constantly reminded of, and proud of, the unique perspective that nurses bring our research teams. They truly put patients first and exemplify relationship-based care.”

    During this year’s Nurses Week, please be sure to recognize and thank the nurses with whom you work. They are critical in helping provide the best care and dedication to advancing health.

  • May 05, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    Congratulations to all MedStar researchers who were published in April 2017. 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. Why Do Long-Distance Travelers Have Improved Pancreatectomy Outcomes?
      Journal of the American College of Surgeons, April 2017. DOI: 1016/j.jamcollsurg.2017.04.003
      Jindal M, Zheng C, Quadri HS, Ihemelandu CU, Hong YK, Smith AK, Dudeja V, Shara NM, Johnson LB, Al-Refaie WB.
    2. Screening nasal swabs for methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus: A regional burn center's experience.
      Burns, April 2017. DOI: 1016/j.burns.2017.01.009.
      Tejiram S, Johnson LS, Mete M, Desale S, Johnson K, Zhang J, Moffatt LT, Shupp JW
    3. Poor prognostication: hidden meanings in word choices.
      BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, April 2017. DOI: 1136/bmjspcare-2017-001353
      Kelemen AM, Kearney G, Pottash M, Groninger H
    4. Naloxone administration for suspected opioid overdose: An expanded scope of practice by a basic life support collegiate-based emergency medical services agency.
      Journal of American College Health, April 2017. DOI:1080/07448481.2016.1277730
      Jeffery RM, Dickinson L, Ng ND, DeGeorge LM, Nable JV
    5. Cross-institutional knowledge-based planning (KBP) implementation and its performance comparison to Auto-Planning Engine (APE).
      Radiotherapy & Oncology, April 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.radonc.2017.01.012.
      Wu B, Kusters M, Kunze-Busch M, Dijkema T, McNutt T, Sanguineti G, Bzdusek K, Dritschilo A, Pang D