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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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  • May 23, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Your Annual Doctor Visit May be Changing

    The federally sanctioned U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently issued new findings about women’s health. The panel of experts recommended that women begin routine screening mammograms at age 50. This differs from long-established guidelines advising women at low risk for breast cancer to begin screening at 40, and continue them annually. That’s still the recommendation of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

    Mary Melancon, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist, says patients often ask what they should do.  “We are happy they are reaching out,” Dr. Melancon said. “Every woman’s situation is different, and your health provider is your best resource.”

    Dr. Melancon notes that the major advisory groups, plus the American Cancer Society, agree that women with low risk factors for cervical cancer need a Pap screening every three years from ages 21-29, and every five years for ages 30-65 (including a screening for human papillomavirus, or HPV).

    However, Dr. Melancon emphasizes, even if testing isn’t recommended yearly, it’s still important for women to receive regular gynecological checkups. “We urge women to maintain a relationship with their providers, even after menopause,” she says.  “It’s vital to check in, remain current with health screenings and discuss any changes or concerns.”

    MedStar Washington Hospital Center offers a full-service, Women’s and Infants’ Services department, which includes consultation, treatment and referral for a full range of gynecologic disorders, and normal and high-risk obstetrics. We believe in the importance of regular medical evaluation for women of all ages and stages of life.

    Routine gynecological services include:

    • Annual well-women exams
    • Pap smears
    • Pelvic exams
    • Family planning and birth control methods
    • Breast exams
    • Sexually transmitted infection treatment
    • Tubal ligation

    To schedule your Well-Woman Visit, please call


    As heard on WTOP Radio:

    Dr. Mary Melancon
    MedStar Washington Hospital Center

    To schedule your Well-Woman Visit, call 703-552-4031.


  • May 21, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    A New Approach to Weight-Loss: vBloc®

    A new approach to traditional weight-loss surgery is now available. This therapy, called vBloc®, may help patients with obesity and weight control problems regulate their appetites.

    Recently approved for clinical use by the FDA, the therapy uses a small device with electrodes implanted along the esophagus and the stomach to manage signals from the brain to the vagus nerve, which regulates many of the body’s digestive functions, including the sensations of hunger and fullness. By intermittently blocking these signals, the device helps patients better regulate their appetites, allowing them to eat more appropriate portion sizes and avoid snacking between meals. Unlike more complex bariatric surgery procedures such as gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy and adjustable gastric banding, the vBloc device can be implanted on an outpatient basis, and adjusted as needed using wireless communication technology. vBloc therapy patients may also have fewer meal and lifestyle restrictions that those who have other weight-loss procedures.

    While vBloc is a promising alternative therapy for weight loss, it’s not for everyone. “vBloc opens up possibilities for weight-loss surgery patients who have a lower body mass index,” says Timothy Shope, MD, a bariatric surgeon at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “Patients still need to first come through our weight loss program and be evaluated to see if they are eligible for the therapy.”

    To see if you’re a candidate for vBloc® therapy, please call


    As heard on WTOP Radio:

    Timothy Shope, MD

    Timothy Shope, MD

    To see if you're a candidate for vBloc therapy, please call 202-877-3627.


  • May 21, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    New Approach to ACL Repair

    Recent studies have found that conventional ACL reconstruction may not be the best approach for all patients. In fact, long-term studies show a high rate of symptomatic arthritis and attrition from running and jumping sports after conventional reconstruction.

    If you’ve torn your ACL, there’s now another option.

    A new, minimally invasive approach preserves the torn ACL by repairing it instead of obtaining a tendon graft from another part of the body. The repair is then supplemented by placing a high tensile strength, braided suture alongside the repair to add additional support. It functions as internal scaffolding, built around the injury. It allows earlier return to motion, while providing enhanced protection and an opportunity for the native ligament to heal. Instead of a post-operative knee brace, that support is placed inside the knee.

    Patients have demonstrated less atrophy than is commonly seen with conventional ACL reconstruction as well as a more rapid functional recovery.

    Additional benefits include:

    • Preservation of neural and vascular elements
    • Preservation of the entire tibial footprint of the ACL
    • Less soft tissue and bone damage
    • Small pinholes in the bone compared with conventional ACL reconstruction, thereby preserving a more normal template upon which conventional procedures could be done if needed in the future

    To find a MedStar physician, please call


    As heard on WTOP Radio:

    Wiemi Douoguih, MD

    Wiemi Douoguih, MD
    Sports Medicine

    For a consultation with an orthopaedic specialist, call 202-877-3627.

    MedStar Orthopaedic Institute is the official medical team of the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards.


  • May 20, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Renewal of Hospital Chapel to Provide Comfort for Patients and Visitors

    By Ronni Cranwell

    Over the past 69 years, the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital chapel has been an important place of worship, respite and healing for patients and families of all backgrounds and religious or spiritual denominations. It serves as a tranquil and sacred place where hospital visitors can find solace during some of their most difficult times.

    “The chapel is meant to be a place of comfort to all people, not just those of any one particular religious faith or tradition,” says Deacon Thomas J. Devaney, director of mission and pastoral care at MedStar Georgetown. “We welcome anyone who is looking for a quiet place of reflection or prayer. Providing this kind of space on campus is important, but it needs updating.” The MedStar Georgetown chapel was built in 1947 along with the main hospital and has had very few upgrades.

    In an effort to maintain this peaceful and meditative space, the Office of Philanthropy at MedStar Georgetown started the Chapel Renovation Fund to provide an uplifting and comfortable space for patients and visitors. Improvements will include refurbished pews and a new organ.

    To date, the Chapel Renovation Fund has raised a third of its $100,000 goal, thanks to many supportive donors who understand the importance of the chapel to the hospital and the community. The funds will go toward updating the space with new furniture and a new audiovisual system to allow patients to watch services from their rooms.

    Donate to the Chapel Renovation Fund or learn more about other philanthropic efforts


  • May 20, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you are five times more likely to have hepatitis C than other age groups.

    Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can affect the liver and left undetected, can result in long-term health problems or fatal liver disease. The good news is that over 90% of patients can be cured through a treatment plan of 8 to 24 weeks, using newly approved drugs with minimal toxicity. Unfortunately, over 50% of those who have the disease don’t realize they have it. Often there are no symptoms until it has progressed to end-stage liver failure.

    New recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Preventive Services Task Force encourage testing for everyone born between 1945 and 1965, and for those with other risk factors.

    In addition to the age recommendation (above), the CDC indicates the following persons may have a higher risk of infection:

    • Current or former injection drug users, including those who injected only once many years ago
    • Recipients of clotting factor concentrates made before 1987, when more advanced methods for manufacturing those products were developed
    • Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants before July 1992, when better testing of blood donors became available
    • Chronic hemodialysis patients
    • Persons with known exposures to HCV, such as:
      • health care workers after needlesticks involving HCV-positive blood
      • recipients of blood or organs from a donor who tested HCV-positive
    • Persons with HIV infection
    • Children born to HCV-positive mothers

    To find a MedStar physician, please call


    As heard on WTOP Radio:

    Glenn Wortmann

    One-time tests can be administered by primary care physicians. If you have hepatitis C and would like to schedule a consultation with an infectious disease specialist, call 202-877-3627.


  • May 19, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Newly Approved WATCHMAN™ Device Reduces Stroke Risk in A-Fib Patients

    MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute is the first in the region to offer patients with atrial fibrillation this minimally invasive option to reduce the risk of stroke.

    In a procedure that lasts about an hour, the WATCHMAN Device is implanted in the heart to close off an area called the left atrial appendage (LAA), the most common site where harmful blood clots form in patients with A-fib. The device prevents these clots from entering the bloodstream, where they might otherwise travel to the brain and cause a stroke. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke can be reduced, and over time, patients may be able to stop taking blood thinners.

    Many patients with A-fib take blood thinners to prevent blood clots within the heart. But blood thinners can increase the risk of bleeding, and patients must be closely monitored.

    Atrial fibrillation is a common heart condition, currently affecting more than five million Americans. Researchers believe 20% of all strokes occur in patients with A-fib.

    Are you a candidate for the WATCHMAN™ Device?

    • Do you have A-fib?
    • Are you at an increased risk for stroke?
    • Are you able to take warfarin (anticoagulants or blood thinners)?
    • Do you have reason to seek a non-pharmacologic alternative?

    If you answered “yes” to each question, the WATCHMAN™ Device may be an effective treatment for you.

    Call to schedule a consult with a specialist 202-877-3627.

    To find out if you're a candidate for the WATCHMAN Device, call


    As heard on WTOP Radio:

    Sarfraz A. Durrani, MD

    Sarfraz A. Durrani, MD
    MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

    Connie Wiley, of Woodbridge, Virginia, became one of the first patients to have the WATCHMAN Device implanted in her heart.