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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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  • July 07, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Calming Unsettled Waters

    Cancer survivors can find themselves in a ghostly (and ghastly) space that is not quite grounded in the reality of yesterday or the hard presence of today. Even for long-term survivors, the anticipation of the “other shoe” dropping is an ever-present hurdle to glide or climb over, depending on the day – or the hour.

    Dozens of cancer survivors of all lengths and strengths put worry and uncertainty on hold for a few hours July 5 at MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s joyful kickoff of PaintFest® America, a 50-day event sponsored by The Foundation for Hospital Art to reach families, patients, and staff of cancer facilities through artwork. To view photos from the event, please click here.

    The concept is deceptively simple and calming: dip the slim paintbrush in the miniature paint bottle that matches the pre-drawn, color-coded designs on canvas stretched over square wooden frames, and let your mind find its safe place.

    A Welcome Distraction 

    Beverly Pollard, of Northeast Washington, a two-year survivor of breast cancer, found PaintFest® a welcome distraction from a friend’s breast cancer surgery, which was taking place at the Hospital Center, while she waited and painted.

    As she carefully placed long gold strokes on the canvas depicting a mountain scene, Ms. Pollard explained she was diagnosed with breast cancer during a mammogram the day she returned from a mission trip to Africa. After her diagnosis, the mother of four foster children said, “I asked God to show me a purpose. But, you have to be careful about what you ask God to use you for! He asked me to be an encourager.” She smiled, gratefully. One of her great joys in life is to help friends with cancer find their purpose.

    Upper Marlboro resident John Belk took time off from work and made the trip simply to give thanks and “give back” a measure of the encouragement he received during his 44 radiation treatments and six months of hormone therapy for prostate cancer. Clad in the thin white plastic protective apron, he spent the better part of an hour in quiet meditation, deliberately painting inside the lines of the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Family members are cancer survivors, too. Regina Zellars of Clinton, Md., was most grateful for the space to calm her mind, as her 26-year-old daughter was taking chemotherapy for mycosis fungoides, a form of T-cell lymphoma. “It’s therapy for me,” Ms. Zellars said, smiling as she bent over a square of canvas featuring tropical fish. “I am so happy to see you all out here. You need to get away in your mind sometimes.”

    Survivorship has been an interesting and creative place for artist Anna U Davis. Born in Sweden, the 41-year-old District resident was diagnosed with stage 2 multifocal invasive breast cancer at age 37. Her art has been an important outlet for her emotional well being. She began drawing a journal, a series of works depicting her journey.

    “It was difficult to go back and re-live it,” she said of the project. “The fear gets less, but there are moments….”  Ms. Davis has partnered with her husband Peter on the project. He is creating raised wood cuttings from her artwork.

    A History of Helping

    For more than 30 years, The Foundation for Hospital Art has been dedicated to “softening the hospital environment with colorful paintings, wall murals and ceiling tiles,” according to Scott Feight, executive director of the foundation. The 48 canvases will create eight murals that will be sent to hospitals in the D.C. area and around the country.

    Have any questions?

    We are here to help! If you have any questions about cancer care at MedStar Washington Hospital Center call 202-877-3627. and you can view our PaintFest® America photo album HERE.

  • July 03, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    The goal of the MedStar Diabetes Research Grant is to support investigators in the field of diabetes research who are interested in developing pilot data that can lead to additional, externally funded studies. This funding opportunity for MedStar investigators interested in diabetes research was made possible by a generous donation to MedStar Health.

    • Evgenia Gourgari, MD
      Assistant Professor, Pediatric Endocrinology Division, Georgetown University
      “Proteomic Alterations of the Lipoproteins in Children with Type 1 Diabetes”
    • Stacy Kaltman, PhD
      Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry
      Georgetown University School of Medicine
      Michelle Magee, MD
      Director, MedStar Diabetes Institute
      “Shaping the Future of Diabetes Care”
    • Zijun Zhang, MD
      Orthobiologic Laboratory, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital
      Senior Investigator, MedStar Health Research Institute
      “The Regulatory Role of Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Antibacterial Infection in Diabetes Mellitus”
  • July 03, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Expanded access is the process by which investigational treatment options are made available to patients with serious and/or life-threatening diseases or conditions who lack therapeutic alternatives. These guidances provide greater clarity about the expanded access process and will allow healthcare providers to more easily navigate the expanded access process and thus enable patients who qualify to access potentially life-saving medications ore readily.

    The first guidance, “Individual Patient Expanded Access Applications: Form FDA 3926,” describes the process for a licensed physician to request use of an investigational drug to treat an individual patient who has no other treatment options.

    The second guidance, “Expanded Access to Investigational Drugs for Treatment Use – Questions and Answers,” explores frequently asked questions related to the implementation of the FDA regulations on expanded access to investigational drugs.

    The third guidance, “Charging for Investigational Drugs Under an IND – Questions and Answers,” addresses questions related to the charging for investigational drugs under an IND in the context of clinical trials or expanded access for treatment use.

    Patient and Physician fact sheets have been developed by the FDA and can be found on their website. The FDA will host a webinar on July 12 at 1:00 pm to explain the expanded access process and the new Individual Patient Expanded Access Application.

  • July 03, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released a new policy, effective in 2017, to align with the proposed Common Rule changes in regards to the use of a single institutional review board (IRB) for multi-site studies. The goal of this policy is to enhance and streamline the IRB review process such that multi-site research can proceed as effectively and expeditiously as possible.

    This policy applies to the domestic sites of NIH-funded, multi-site studies, where each site will conduct the same protocol involving non-exempt human subjects research, whether supported through grants, cooperative agreements, or contracts. All sites participating in a multi-site study are expected to rely on a single IRB of record. Participating sites continue to be responsible for meeting other regulatory requirements such as obtaining informed consent, overseeing the implementation of the protocol, and reporting unanticipated problems and study progress to the IRB. The single IRB may also act as a privacy board, as applicable, to fulfill the HIPAA requirements for use or disclosure of protected health information for research purposes. This policy applies to all competing grant applications (new, renewal, revision, or resubmission) with receipt dates on or after May 25, 2017. For contracts, the policy applies to all solicitations issued on or after May 25, 2017.

    Guidance on scenarios illustrating the use of direct and indirect costs for single IRB review under the policy are now available.

    We encourage investigators to contact the MHRI IRB/ORI through as soon as they learn they will be participating in a project that requires a central IRB, that a reliance agreement can be completed and assist the investigator with the entire process.

  • July 03, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    MedStar Health Research Institute's core blood and biomarker research laboratory, the Penn Medical Laboratory, has been renamed the Biomarker, Biochemistry and Biorepository Core (B3 Core). The B3 Core has more than 20 years of experience providing scientific, laboratory, and biorepository services for clinical studies, trials, and epidemiologic investigations sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), other federal agencies, foundations, and pharmaceutical sponsors.

    Originally, the lab was located on Pennsylvania Avenue. It moved to the space behind the Hyman Building at MedStar Washington Hospital Center for a time before it was relocated to its current home, University Town Center. Jason Umans, MD, PhD, scientific director of the B3 Core, said of the renaming that, “we thought that our name should be descriptive and, growing out of a vision of our core services developed over the years, we embraced our three key roles in biomarker measurement, biochemistry, and safeguarding a large and growing biorepository.” The historical attachment to the name denied “our central mission as a core service in MHRI,” said Dr. Umans.

    The B3 Core is expansive in the resources it provides to the many studies it supports, including research in diabetes, pregnancy, oncology and cardiovascular disease. The bulk of the research supported centers on racial and ethnic minority populations. The B3 Core also has collaborative agreements with university and hospital research labs across the nation to support a wider range of research.

    In addition to a large pool of dedicated PRN staff, including Min Tun, Xia Liu, and Bassey Effiok, and Dr. Umans, B3 Core is staffed by Jianhui Zhu, MD, PhD, technical director and AC Green, research technician and supported by administrative manager Matthew Hoffman and executive director Becky Montalvo. For more information about the B3 Core, contact

  • June 29, 2016

    By Jeffrey Shupp, MD

    All burns have this in common - they hurt. Don't ruin your summer by