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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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  • November 08, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    As a loving husband and devoted father, Earl always took his physical health seriously. He never smoked, scheduled annual physicals and went to the dentist regularly. He was doing everything he could to ensure that he would always be there for his family.

    When his daughter complained of a sore throat one day, it's no surprise that Earl jumped at the chance to make it a teachable moment. He explained to his daughter that swollen lymph nodes often accompany a sore throat. As he was showing her how to check her lymph nodes, he noticed that a lymph node on the left side of his neck was enlarged.

    While Earl thought this was odd, he decided to wait to talk to his doctor at his upcoming physical, which was just a few weeks away. At his physical, in early November, Earl's primary care physician confirmed that the left neck lymph node was enlarged and required a closer look.

    A biopsy was scheduled for early January.

    Earl's Diagnosis and Surgery

    By the end of January, the results were back — Earl was officially diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a form of cancer that had spread into his lymph node. Earl's primary care physician directed him to an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, who identified the primary cancer site at the base of his tongue. The ENT recommended immediate treatment and provided Earl with the names of several specialists in the DC area.

    After researching these surgeons online, Earl chose to work with Stanley Chia, MD, Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

    At this appointment, Dr. Chia evaluated Earl's throat to confirm the primary cancer site was located at the left base of his tongue. He then ordered a PET-CT to make sure the cancer was isolated to only the tongue base and the lymph node in the left neck.

    Once it was confirmed that the cancer had not spread beyond the lymph node, Dr. Chia explained to Earl that he was a prime candidate for robotic surgery. The base of tongue can be difficult to reach with standard surgical techniques, and the robotic approach is ideally suited to this approach. Surgery to remove the lymph nodes from the left side of his neck would be performed simultaneously.

    Surgery was set for April 4, which was ideal timing for Earl, because it allowed him to keep his plans to spend his daughter's spring break with his family.

    While Earl was nervous as his surgery date approached, he was pleased that Dr. Chia took the time to explain the process and answer all his questions, such as "What kind of scarring should I expect?" and "What are the side effects of surgery?"

    Surgery was a success. Earl was able to talk the same day as his surgery. He began eating the day after surgery, and within a few weeks, Earl was eating normally again.

    Evaluating His Treatment Options

    While surgery was a success, Earl knew that he now had to determine if he would continue on with radiation treatment. Fortunately, the biopsy from surgery showed that the cancer was HPV positive, which meant it had a better prognosis than traditional smoking-related cancers. The biopsy report also confirmed that the surgery had successfully removed the cancerous cells in the tongue and neck.

    Standard treatment for head and neck cancers after surgery often includes radiation treatment or even chemotherapy. Earl discussed his treatment options with Dr. Chia and Adedamola Omogbehin, MD, on the radiation team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and even sought a second opinion.

    After evaluating all his options and taking a close look at the side effects associated with radiation treatment, Earl decided to forgo further treatment. He attributes his ability to avoid radiation treatment to early detection, as well as the success of his robotic surgery.

    Looking Ahead

    Today, Earl is glad to be a cancer survivor, and he has a new outlook on life. He says that the whole process happened very quickly, but that he was very happy with the honest and accurate information provided by Dr. Chia and Dr. Omogbehin.

    Earl encourages others to pay close attention to their own personal health and not to be fooled into thinking it can't happen to them. He urges other to be proactive and to get anything that seems odd checked out as soon as possible.

  • November 07, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    The Absorb™ Stent is a new dissolvable stent that has promise in treating patients with fully or partially blocked coronary arteries due to plaque build up.
  • November 06, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Andrew Carter, JD, Contracts and Grants Administrator for the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute was awarded the SPIRIT of Excellence Award for this year’s third quarter. The award was presented to Mr. Carter by Neil Weissman, MD, president of MHRI.

    Mr. Carter works closely with many associates at both MedStar Health and Georgetown University through the Office of Sponsored Research, collaborating with associates from Georgetown’s institutional review board, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Clinical Trial Management Office. Christina Stanger, MA, CRA, Director, Office of Contracts and Grants Management, and Chad League, JD, Manager, Office of Contracts and Grants Management, were on hand when the award was presented to highlight aspects of Mr. Carter’s invaluable work for MHRI and how he exemplifies the SPIRIT values.

    “He is focused on ensuring stakeholders are happy, setting an HRO example for his counterparts, and keeping up a level of quality that we can stand behind,” said Ms. Stanger. In addition to managing his own work portfolio, he has stepped up for the team, covering open positions so that work is completed and creating workflows to support projects.

    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.

  • November 06, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Ian M. Brooks, PhD, has joined the MHRI Biostatics and Biomedical Informatics department as the associate director of biomedical informatics. Dr. Brooks was previously faculty in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), Memphis, and the Associate Director of the UTHSC-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Center for Biomedical Informatics.

    Dr. Brooks was awarded his PhD in biology from Pennsylvania State University, followed by postdoctoral fellowships at Georgetown University and The University of Tennessee Health Science Center. His personal research focuses are chronic diabetes in adults and pediatric asthma. Previous research projects that he has worked on have been funded by the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Department of Defense and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

    “It is refreshing to join an organization understanding and utilizing its dynamism that is focused not only on future funding opportunities but in the future state of healthcare as a whole,” said Dr. Brooks.

    MedStar Health uses a suite of electronic medical records systems that allow scientists and clinicians to track patient data by disease (e.g., cancer or non-cancer) or clinical specialty (e.g., laboratory testing or imaging). The Department of Biostatistics and Biomedical Informatics manages these data through a suite of clinical databases that comprise over 29 million patient encounters across the MedStar Health system. For assistance and information on biostatistics or biomedical informatics, email

  • November 06, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Research published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology is working to fill the gap in available information on cardiac arrest outcomes in situations where patients are treated with therapeutic hypothermia.

    The study, “Outcomes in Cardiac Arrest Patients Due to Toxic Exposure Treated with Therapeutic Hypothermia" was led by Katharine L. Modisett, MD, Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Other researchers involved were from Einstein Medical Center and Carolinas Medical Center.

    This study was undertaken to fill a void in our medical knowledge, as there were no publications describing the outcomes and characteristics of patients who undergo therapeutic hypothermia after toxin-induced cardiac arrest (TICA). Since publishing online in the first quarter of 2016 and in print in September 2016, other research teams have also published, although there is still a lack of substantial data on this patient population.

    Therapeutic hypothermia is the deliberate reduction of a patient’s core temperature in order to minimize brain injury following cardiac arrest. This study defined TICA as cardiac arrest directly and immediately caused by a xenobiotic toxic exposure.

    The patients were adults who obtained return of spontaneous circulation after a non-traumatic cardiac arrest at a single center and whose follow-up treatment was part of a dedicated clinical-care pathway for cardiac arrest which included therapeutic hypothermia. Of the 389 patients who were treated in the time frame for cardiac arrest, 12% were deemed to have TICA. Findings suggest that patients who suffer from TICA tend to be younger than those who suffer cardiac arrest from non-toxic causes

    While this study provides information not previously available, it also shows the need for larger studies examining more data to gain further knowledge of the optimal role for therapeutic hypothermia in TICA.

    Journal of Medical Toxicology, 2016. DOI: 10.1007/s13181-016-0536-x.

  • November 06, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Congratulations to all researchers who were published in October 2016. There were 48 peer-reviewed studies published in 38 journals that are part of the body of work completed by MedStar Health investigators, physicians, and associates. We look forward to seeing your future research.

    Selected research:

    1. Mean HEART scores for hospitalized chest pain patients are higher in more experienced providers.
      The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, October 2016. DOI: 1016/j.ajem.2016.10.037
      Dubin J,Kiechle E, Wilson M, Timbol C, Bhat R, Milzman D.
    2. Indications for primary cesarean delivery relative to body mass index.
      American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, October 2016. DOI: 1016/j.ajog.2016.05.023.
      Kawakita T,Reddy UM, Landy HJ, Iqbal SN, Huang CC, Grantz KL.
    3. ICU-Acquired Weakness: A Rehabilitation Perspective of Diagnosis, Treatment, and Functional Management.
      Chest, October DOI: 10.1016/j.chest.2016.06.006
      Zorowitz RD.
    4. Patient Risk Factors for Mechanical Wound Complications and Postoperative Infections after Elective Open Intestinal Resection.
      International Journal of Health Sciences (Qassim University), October 2016.
      Chang WC, Turner A, Imon M, Dyda A.
    5. Screening for Intimacy Concerns in a Palliative Care Population: Findings from a Pilot Study.
      Journal of Palliative Medicine, October 2016. DOI: 1089/jpm.2016.0092
      Kelemen A,Cagle J, Groninger H.

    View the full list of publications on here.