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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 07, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Immunotherapy is a promising treatment for lung cancer. The concept isn’t new. Since the 1970s, doctors have turned to medicine as a tool to stimulate the immune system’s defensive response to cancer. In the past, immunotherapy was used to treat kidney cancer and melanoma.

    It is only recently that researchers have found ways to apply the same principles to treating certain types of lung cancer.

    Changing the Treatment Outlook for Lung Cancer

    Although there are several treatment options doctors can use to treat lung cancer, it isn’t unusual for these cancers to stop responding to chemotherapy after a few months. Fortunately, medical research indicates that immunotherapy might be an option when other methods of treatment prove ineffective.

    In 2012, researchers reported encouraging results in a small percentage of people who used immunotherapy to treat non-small cell lung cancer. Other studies involved subsets of patients who lived for many years after receiving immunotherapy when their cancer did not respond to chemotherapy.

    Whereas most developments in cancer care produce marginal improvements, immunotherapy has proven to offer dramatic, durable benefits to a limited group of patients. In fact, some patients have lived for several years beyond what would have been possible with conventional treatments.

    Some patients in these groups tolerate immunotherapy medicines better than chemotherapy drugs, with fewer side effects, which means they can fight their cancer while enjoying a better quality of life.

    Limitations of Immunotherapy

    The challenge with immunotherapy is that it seems to work only for a minority of cancer patients. Doctors don’t always know which patients will respond to immunotherapy, although several medical studies are underway to identify which cancers and which patients respond to different immunotherapies.

    Research has shown that some cancers express a particular protein called PD-L1 that predicts response to certain immunotherapy drugs. This test can be ordered by your physician.

    Who Does Immunotherapy Work For?

    For patients whose lung cancer expresses PD-L1, a recent study has shown immunotherapy with a drug called pembrolizumab was superior to chemotherapy as the first treatment for advanced lung cancer.

    For other patients, chemotherapy may be the preferred treatment but when chemotherapy stops working, immunotherapy, with drugs like pembrolizumab, nivolumab, or atezolizumab, may be a good option. In this setting, immunotherapy would be expected to work for about 20 percent of patients. Doctors are not sure if the other 80 percent of patients will respond to other types of immunotherapy.

    Clinical trials are currently studying the effects of new immunotherapy drugs and new combinations, which could become available soon.

    Is Immunotherapy Right for You?

    Immunotherapy isn’t right for everyone with lung cancer. If you have a serious autoimmune condition, it’s less likely to be a suitable treatment option for you. In fact, it could make your condition worse. Depending on the type of lung cancer you have, there might be other treatments that your oncologist would prefer to use instead.

    Don’t rule out asking your oncologist if immunotherapy is an option for you. Most doctors are happy to discuss all available treatments with their patients and explain why they are or are not suitable. You might even be a candidate to join a clinical trial for a new immunotherapy drug.

    Final Thought

    If you have nonsmall-cell lung cancer, talk to your oncologist about immunotherapy. This treatment may be a good option if other treatments aren’t working for you. With new immunotherapy drugs in development, there may be an emerging medicine - or combinations of medicines - that could help control your cancer or send it into remission.

  • December 05, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Cheryl Iglesia, MD, explains the many steps you can take to prevent your sex life from becoming ho-hum.
  • December 05, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Laura (Laurie) Want, MSN, RN, CDE, CCRC, BC-ADM, of the MedStar Community Clinical Research Center (MCCRC) was awarded the Josie King HeRO Award, in honor of her commitment to patient safety and her part in making MedStar Health a high reliability organization.

    MHRI associates were joined by Dave Mayer, MD, vice president of Quality and Safety for MedStar Health to present her the award.

    The Josie King HeRO Award is given to a MedStar Health associate each quarter who has shown commitment to creating a culture where patient safety is at the forefront and can stand as an example to others as a person of positive change.

    Ms. Want has been a committed member of MedStar Health for 24 years. Her work in the MCCRC is with participants of the diabetes research studies. As part of her routine with patients, she checks their feet when weighing them and noticed that one particular patient had a foot injury. Since he is diabetic, and previously had a toe amputated, this patient was at high-risk for a serious adverse event due to this injury.

    “We need to look at the whole person we care for,” said Ms. Want, “and remember that they are not just our patient, they are a family member to someone who cares for them. We have a responsibility to care for them in a way that supports their total health.”

    Ms. Want was able to work with the other clinicians on site, having Jean Park, MD, assess the injury and determine what the next steps should be. With Dr. Park’s assent and persuasion, the patient was seen the same day at the Georgetown Foot and Wound Center for treatment and follow-up. While this particular patient was the one saved from this potential serious event, the MCCRC has gone one step further and begun introducing a practice for all their research studies to help catch this type of issue early in the process.

    Congratulations to Laurie and the MCCRC team for showing care for our patients and doing your part to advance the health and care of our community. Our high reliability processes are making MedStar not only a valuable partner to patients in the delivery of care, but also to the healthcare industry as a whole in advancing and improving health through clinical research.

  • December 04, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    MedStar Health is committed to supporting the requirements of a high-reliability organization. In order for associates to report compliance concerns, the Integrity Hotline is available.

    How does an associate report a compliance concern?

    The Integrity Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is managed by a 3rd-party vendor. All calls can remain anonymous if the caller chooses.

    A report can be made through:

    • Your direct supervisor
    • A higher-level supervisor
    • An Entity Compliance Officer
    • Office of Corporate Business Integrity (OCBI) via email at or phone at (410) 772-6606
    • Integrity Hotline (anonymous hotline available 24/7): 877-811-3411
    • Integrity Hotline (anonymous web-based reporting):

    What should be reported to the integrity hotline?

    Associates have an obligation to report violations related to MedStar Health's policies and applicable federal, state and local laws, statutes and regulations, including the following:

    • Code of Conduct Violations
    • Billing and Coding
    • Conflicts of Interest
    • Financial Reporting
    • Retaliation
    • Documentation
    • Kickbacks
    • Privacy Violations
    • Research Related Issues.

    All calls to the Integrity Hotline can be made anonymously without fear of retaliation for a good faith report of an actual or potential compliance violation.

  • December 04, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    MedStar Health Research Institute (MHRI) was awarded membership to the second cohort of the Safe Healthcare, Epidemiology, and Prevention Research Development (SHEPheRD) Program funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). MHRI is one of a select group of organizational members of this cohort.

    SHEPheRD was developed as an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to provide CDC a mechanism to collaborate with healthcare systems, academic, and other research partners to perform research and quality improvement projects. Membership is divided into eight specific research areas, ranging from adverse event research protocol development to healthcare information technology development to advanced molecular epidemiology and microbial community analysis. Membership into specific area domains qualifies MHRI investigators to bid as the prime contractor on CDC-released task orders.

    MHRI was awarded membership into “Acute Inpatient Care Quality Improvement and Research Implementation Infrastructure”, as one of only four organizations. As part of this award, MHRI has partnered with Abt Associates, a research organization specializing in large-scale data collection, evaluation, and analysis of health problems, policies, and programs. This award also leveraged MedStar’s academic partnership with Georgetown University to access the expertise of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law in assessing legal and policy interventions as related to the impact of infection control interventions.

    In addition, MHRI is also a partner on the Abt Associates SHEPheRD award under “Healthcare-associated infection (HAI) and Other Adverse Healthcare Event Prevention Research Protocol Development and Implementation”. Membership under this specific domain allows Abt Associates to bid as the prime contractor on CDC-released task orders that will focus on successfully answering research questions posed by CDC, including study design, protocol development, database development, statistical support, background literature review, study implementation, and data management and analysis services. If interested, MHRI investigators could be investigators and collaborators under SHEPheRD proposals submitted by either MHRI or Abt Associates.

    Across the entire SHEPheRD program, including all domains, CDC will fund projects totaling up to $200M over five years. For more information, contact

  • December 04, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    The 2017 Symposium features scientific poster presentations from researchers across the system and the spectrum of care, information on research support services offered by MedStar Health Research Institute and the opportunity to connect with residents and researchers dedicated to advancing health. For the first time, the Symposium will bring together researchers with residents for a system-wide resident research day.

    More details will be forthcoming at

    New Venue for 2017
    Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
    5701 Marinelli Rd.
    North Bethesda, MD 20852