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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 10, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Ladies, it is time for you to take stock of your well-being and focus on your health
  • May 09, 2016

    By Amie Hsia, MD

    Think FAST: Minutes Matter During a Stroke

    Minutes matter when doctors are trying to limit or reverse brain damage caused by a stroke. Know the warning signs, recognize your symptoms, and call 9-1-1 to get to a Stroke Center quickly. The earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome.

    LISTEN: Dr. Hsia discusses emergency measures to take when you identify someone having a stroke.

    If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, ask yourself the following questions:

    • Does the individual have high blood pressure?
    • Does he or she smoke?
    • Is the individual overweight or obese?
    • Does he or she get regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes on most or all days)?
    • Does he or she have diabetes?
    • Is there a family history of stroke?

    Then think FAST.

    • Face: Ask the individual to smile. An inability to smile or one-sided expression could indicate a stroke.
    • Arms: Ask the individual to raise both arms. One-sided muscle weakness or paralysis may indicate a stroke.
    • Speech: Ask the individual to say a simple sentence. Slurred speech or difficulty speaking are also signs of stroke.
    • Time: Call 9-1-1. Reduce the time for receiving medical attention. Delay in receiving medical attention may increase the possibility of permanent damage or death.

    Other signs and symptoms of stroke to look for:

    • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
    • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding
    • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination

    MedStar Washington Hospital Center is home to the region’s first Comprehensive Stroke Center, and is at the forefront of care for patients with the most severe and complex strokes.

    If you think you may be having a stroke, call 911. To schedule a consultation, call 202-877-3627.

    Request an Appointment

    Our Comprehensive Stroke Center


    Amie Hsia, MD - Vascular Neurologist, Medical Director of Comprehensive Stroke Center


    Joe Murphy's Story - A massive stroke almost took Joe’s life. Our expert team made a lifesaving difference.

    Missed our other topics? Get more Medical Intel.

  • May 08, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Reducing Pain, Restoring Function: A Team Approach to Hand Surgery

    Though the hands may be small, their impact is significant. Your hands contain more bones than any other body part – an average of 27 in each. In fact, one of the most important ways we interact with the world is through our hands.

    For people with constant hand or wrist pain due to a variety of conditions, their ability to express themselves, relate to others, and contribute to society may be severely limited.

    The hand surgery team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center is comprised of plastic surgeons, MedStar Orthopaedic Institute surgeons, and skilled hand therapists. Together, they bring vast expertise to the evaluation and treatment of simple and complex disorders of the hand and upper extremities. Specializing in the delicate nerves, bones, tendons and soft tissue in the hand, wrist and elbow, the team can help reduce pain and restore hand function – often with short recovery times.

    Common Conditions

    • Hand Nerve Entrapment: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
    • Dupuytren's Contracture
    • DeQuervain’s Disease
    • Finger Conditions
    • Hand Cysts and Tumors
    • Arthritis
    • Fractures and Dislocations
    • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
    • Tendon Conditions
    • Ulnar Nerve Compression
    • Vascular disease such as Raynaud’s

    Expert Treatments

    • Arthroscopy
    • Amputations and Replantations
    • Prosthetics
    • Minimally Invasive Nerve Surgery
    • Hand Therapy

    If you have wrist pain, call to schedule an appointment


    As heard on WTOP Radio:

    Derek Masden, MD

    Derek Masden, MD

    Peter Fitzgibbons, MD

    Peter Fitzgibbons, MD

    Stephen Gunther, MD

    Stephen Gunther, MD

    To schedule an appointment, call 202-877-3627.


  • May 06, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    While you walk at your own pace, you’ll have the opportunity to have questions answered by MedStar Washington Hospital Center physicians
  • May 06, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    A New Solution for Chronic Hip Pain

    For many people, chronic hip pain can mean a dramatic change in lifestyle. Accommodations must be made to minimize the discomfort and avoid causing more damage. For some, this means giving up favorite fitness programs, playing with their children, or even their occupation.

    Hip arthroscopy is a new approach that offers a proven alternative to hip replacement. When certain characteristics are recognized early, we can perform minimally invasive surgery to repair cartilage tears and recontour abnormal hip bone shapes. This procedure often stabilizes the patient’s chronic condition and helps preserve the hip joints.

    If you're experiencing hip pain, schedule an appointment with Dr. Argintar by calling


    As heard on WTOP Radio:

    Evan Argintar, MD

    Evan Argintar, MD
    Orthopaedic Surgeon

    If you're experiencing hip pain, call to schedule an appointment with Dr. Argintar: 202-877-3627.


  • May 05, 2016

    By MedStar Health


    Heart attack, cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, hypothermia. These and other medical emergencies can shock your organs, and prevent them from working.

    When the heart or lungs fail, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, can make the lifesaving difference for many.

    We offer this technology to patients who are dying from heart or pulmonary failure. The ECMO machine effectively takes over the function of the heart or lungs, drawing blood out of the body, oxygenating it, and circulating it back in. Depending on the extent of the damage and the ability to recover, some patients may need it for only a few days while others can be treated for as long as several weeks.

    ECMO doesn’t fix the organs, but it provides valuable time for them to rest and heal. Sometimes, it serves as a bridge to other complex lifesaving interventions such as transplantation.

    Because of the tremendous amount of expertise and experience required to operate the ECMO machine, MedStar Washington Hospital Center is one of the few hospitals that can offer the treatment.

    For Sharon Allen, a young mother of five, the advanced ECMO technology was what helped save her life.

    The arteries of Sharon’s heart began to unravel and suddenly she collapsed. Every second mattered as she was flown to MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Despite the rare condition, our team of specialists diagnosed her from a distance, planning Sharon’s surgery while she was still in the air. Following extensive surgery, Sharon was placed on ECMO, the advanced technology that gave her heart time to heal—and allowed her to return to her loving family.

    To schedule a consultation, call


    As heard on WTOP Radio:

    Ezequiel Molina, MD

    Ezequiel Molina, MD
    Cardiac Surgeon