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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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  • February 17, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    You’re heard it many times before -- follow a healthy lifestyle for a healthy heart. Sounds simple, right?  But it’s not always so easy to pull off. A heart healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk for heart disease by as much as 80%!  But what is a “heart healthy lifestyle”?  It’s a commitment to many habits in our daily lives centered on our activity, diets, mindset and awareness.  There is no one “magic” thing. When lifestyle isn’t enough, talk with your doctor to set goals you can realistically achieve, such as losing weight or lowering your cholesterol or blood pressure levels. Sometimes, it takes medications that can be very helpful to optimizing your heart risk.

    So, commit to making the many small lifestyle changes that make a healthy heart a snap! The key to success is to make small changes in many areas. No matter what you do, remember to take it day by day, and work to sustain your gains.

    With that in mind, we’ve compiled 29 heart health tips. Knowledge is power!  Read on to find out what you can do to keep your heart healthy. Only you can love your heart. So start today!

    1. Make time for exercise: Exercising 30 to 60 minutes on most days will cut your heart risk in half.

    2. Know your heart disease risk: Calculate your risk by plugging your numbers into an online calculator.

    3. Never ignore your chest pain:  Pain can be felt anywhere in the chest area, arms, your back and neck.

    4. Check your blood pressure: Let the healthy blood pressure number be below 140/90. Both numbers matter!

    5. No smoking: Don’t smoke, and ask your loved ones to quit.

    6. Aspirin: Should you take aspirin? If you have heart disease, yes! If you don’t have heart disease, then maybe not! Ask your doctor.

    7. Moderate exercise: How do you know whether you are exercising moderately? You should able to carry on a light conversation

    8. Stress: Is it bad for your heart? Yes, sustained stress is, no matter the source. Learn to control your stress to prevent heart disease.

    9. Second hand smoke is dangerous! Public smoking bans in the community have reduced heart attack risk by 20%.

    10. Sex: Is your heart healthy enough for sex? Sex has a “heart workload” like climbing two flights of stairs.

    11. Dark chocolate: Give your loved ones chocolate as a gift on Valentine’s day! Regular chocolate eaters have less heart and stroke risk!

    12. Order wine with your dinner! Moderate intake is associated with lower heart risk. (Consume wisely!)

    13. Red or white wine? Is one better for your heart? Wine, beer or spirits all show a similar relationship to lower heart risk.

    14. The “Mediterranean diet” is the most heart healthy way to eat. Studies show this diet reduces heart attack risk up to 30%.

    15. Mediterranean diet = veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, olive oil, poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt and wine.

    16. Take your heart meds fully and faithfully! It’s the only way to get the full benefit of the treatments!

    17. Stairs burn twice as many calories as walking. Regular stair climbing reduces your risk of premature death by 15%!

    18. The quantified self. Keep moving! Steps per day:

    • Very active >10,000
    • active >7500
    • sedentary <5000

    19. Fish eaters have less heart disease!Think about fish as a first choice when eating out- let somebody else do the cooking!

    20.Outlook: Did you know that people who are optimistic have less heart disease? See the bright side- it is truly good for your heart!

    21. If you snore, tell your doctor. Snoring can be treated, and could signal risks for your blood pressure and heart rhythm.

    22. Want to really know your risk of heart attack? Get a calcium scan of your heart. Accurate, safe, and costs less than dinner for 2!

    23. Do you know CPR? Simple! Learn it here and double somebody’s chance of surviving cardiac arrest.

    24.Hidden soda: Ditch the soda and energy drinks.Please.

    25. Coffee lover? For your heart’s sake, it is OK! (But, skip the donut!)

    26. Like music? So does your heart! Music listening lowers your heart rate, and blood pressure!

    27. Are statin cholesterol drugs safe? For most patients, yes! Unfortunately, over the counter supplements aren’t very helpful.

    28. Heart attack or stroke symptoms? Don’t delay! Call 911 immediately. Minutes matter to save lives!

    29. Taking vitamins or other supplements for heart disease risk? Be careful- few have little, if any, proven benefit.

    Have any questions?

    We are here to help! Contact us for more information about heart health or to schedule an appointment. Call us at 202-877-3627.

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  • February 15, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    MedStar Georgetown Welcomes New President Michael C. Sachtleben
  • February 15, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    A recent study found that a less invasive approach to total hip replacement—anterior hip replacement—performs just as well as traditional surgery.
  • February 15, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    By Ronni Cranwell

    In 2006, Mrs. Jean Jones’ life changed forever.

    Her son, Darin, was involved in a motorcycle accident that required him to receive a small bowel transplant. He was cared for by Thomas Fishbein, MD, and Cal Matsumoto, MD, at the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, where Darin continues to receive annual checkups.

    Years later, after another healthy visit with Darin, Mrs. Jones started thinking about giving back to the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute and the doctors who had saved her son’s life.

    “I wanted our contributions to enable Drs. Fishbein and Matsumoto to provide transplant patients with ongoing medical care and peace of mind for the families they serve,” says Mrs. Jones.

    “Darin was given a second chance over eight years ago,” she shares. “We felt so grateful, and had to do something. We wanted to make a difference for the Hospital and for others facing similar medical situations.”

    As Mrs. Jones and her husband, Mr. Sam Jones, prepared their will, they contacted David Zwerski, assistant vice president at MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, and Ronni Cranwell, senior philanthropy officer at the Hospital, to discuss ways to honor the wonderful care their son received from Drs. Fishbein and Matsumoto.

    Mr. and Mrs. Jones decided to leave a significant bequest to the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute.

    Mrs. Jones has been an active volunteer at the Gift of Life Family House, a respite house where transplant patients and their families stay during recovery. The house, established by Howard M. Nathan in Philadelphia, is an example of how philanthropic investments can expand and enhance programs.

    “My hope is that someday there will be a Gift of Life Family House in Georgetown to help future families,” she says. “We made it through a tough time thanks to some great doctors. This gift is our way of making sure others continue to get that care and support during such a difficult time.”

    Make A Difference

    To learn how you can make a difference, contact the Office of Philanthropy at MedStar Georgetown at 



    Make an Online Gift

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    Ways to Give

  • February 12, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    With hope for the development of a  Zika virus vaccine during Black History Month, here's a little-known fact to share: Inoculation was introduced to America by an African-born slave.

    During the smallpox epidemic in 1721 in Boston, an enslaved person named Onesimus told his master about a centuries-old tradition of inoculation he had learned during his childhood in Africa. He explained that by extracting the material from an infected person and scratching it into the skin of an uninfected person, you could deliberately introduce smallpox to the healthy individual making them immune. Eventually, a physician experimented with the procedure by inoculating over 240 people. Records indicate that only 2% of patients requesting inoculation died compared to the 15% of people not inoculated who contracted smallpox. When the research was reported, Onesimus received credit for the idea. Later,  his traditional African practice was used to inoculate American soldiers during the Revolutionary War and introduced the concept of inoculation to the United States.

    "MedStar Washington Hospital Center is proud to be at the forefront of fighting infectious diseases and caring for patients affected by them. We are inspired by innovators of both the past and the present,” says Dr. Glenn Wortmann, chief of Infectious Diseases. “From smallpox or tuberculosis, to Ebola and the zika virus, the need to grow and share knowledge is never ending.”

    Source: and

    Have any questions?

    We are here to help! Contact us for more information about infectious diseases. Call us at 202-877-3627.

  • February 11, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    As temperatures plummet in the Washington, D.C., region, people heading outdoors for work or recreational purposes, should be aware that frostbite can occur at any time. Last year, we treated a dozen patients in the Burn Center due to frostbite. One year later, some of those patients are still undergoing treatment. How long you’re exposed to the elements and how cold the temperatures are outdoors, can put you at risk.

    The best way to prevent frostbite is to stay indoors in bitterly cold temperatures. If you must go outside, get prepared in order to protect yourself. First, dress in multiple layers of loose, warm clothing. Limit the amount of time you’re exposed to cold, wet or windy weather. Change out of wet cold immediately, particularly gloves, hats and socks- to keep moisture away from the skin. Do not go outside alone, especially if you have pre-existing medical problems.


    Frostbite is the freezing of body tissues, whether it’s the skin or bone, and it can look different on different people. Often, the damage begins long before a person can feel it. If you begin to notice changes in sensation to your extremities- finger, nose, ears, that’s a sign that you’re in trouble. Also look for:

    • Numbness

    • Skin color ranges from pale to excess redness, in severe cases skin turns blue to black

    • Blistering

    • Hard or waxy-looking skin

    If you’ve been exposed to the cold and are concerned about frostbite injury to any part of your body, you need to seek medical attention. Frostbite can be treated and the prognosis is usually good, but severe cases due require surgery and potentially amputation.People with pre-existing vascular diseases and diabetes can be at increased risk of frostbite and frostnip and should be extra vigilant in the cold weather.

    The same preventative steps can also be taken to prevent your risk of hypothermia. Shivering and extreme exhaustion is an early sign that your body is losing heat. For both, the consequences of being exposed to the cold without taking the proper precautions can have long-term consequences on your health and well being.

    Have any questions?

    We are here to help! Contact us for more information about frostbite or to schedule an appointment. Call us at 202-877-3627.