When you think of protecting your skin during a holiday trip or vacation, you probably imagine applying sunscreen in the sweltering heat of summer -- but the winter holiday season poses its share of threats to your skin as well. Here are common seasonal issues you need to be aware of before you jump into all the winter fun.
Cold-related Skin Damage
Cold temperatures can do serious harm to your skin if you haven't taken appropriate protective measures. The most infamous form of cold-related damage comes in the form of frostbite. Frostbite tends to afflict the least well-insulated parts of the body, such as the face, fingers and toes. If you catch the condition in its mildest stage ("frostnip"), count yourself lucky -- you'll experience redness and numbness, followed by prickly pain sensations as the skin warms back up again, but no lasting damage. More severe forms of frostbite may include symptoms ranging from stinging and burning sensations to discoloration, blistering and eventual tissue death. Advanced frostbite requires immediate medical attention.
Another skin condition that can bedevil you during cold weather is called chilblains. This maddening problem occurs when the tiny blood vessels in your fingers or toes can't adjust quickly enough to rapid changes in temperature. The vessels start to leak blood, and this leakage causes your appendages to become red, swollen, itchy and painful. If you have poor circulation or auto-immune issues such as lupus, you may be especially prone to chilblains. Modern dermatology has few answers for this problem, apart from the use of topical medications and creams to protect the skin and relieve discomfort. Your best bet is to dress your feet as warmly as possible when outdoors and maintain rigid climate control indoors.
Skin cancer isn't just a summertime thing; it can threaten your health and even your life at any time of year. In fact, that stunning winter wonderland outside your door can actually increase your cancer risk. That's because the blanket of white snow reflects UV rays with a vengeance. In fact, research has indicated that a snowscape can hit you with 2.5 times more UV than you'd experience on the beach!
While you'll probably have most of your body covered in your engaged in sub-freezing winter sports, take extra care to apply sunscreen to your face, neck, hands or any other exposed skin. (Apply a UV-protectant lip balm as well.) ask your dermatologist to recommend a sunscreen that protects you from both UVA and UVB radiation.
Dryness-related Skin Problems
Whether you're out braving the winter winds or hiding indoors with the heat turned up, you're likely to spend much of the season surrounded by dry air. This causes problems for the skin. Lack of moisture can lead to painful cracking, which in turn can create painful conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. To add insult to injury, the cracks in your skin can permit bacteria to enter, potentially causing a skin infection.
While keeping your skin moist is an obvious preventative measure, be aware that long baths and showers aren't necessarily the best way to achieve that. The longer your skin soaks, the more of its natural oils it will lose -- and the use of perfumed or antibacterial soap only makes matters worse. Instead, use oil-based moisturizers to help lock moisture in. Even dietary changes can help. Try eating more foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish. These acids have natural anti-inflammatory and anti-dehydration effects.
A red face may make Santa appear jolly, but rosacea gives its victims nothing to smile about. This condition, which causes outbreaks of red, flushed, bumpy skin on the face, can be triggered by a wide range of environmental elements, including sun exposure and exposure to cold temperatures. Another, more subtle trigger, holiday stress, has been found to trigger symptoms in 59 percent of rosacea sufferers.
What can you do to keep your rosacea at bay during the winter holiday season? Apart from doing whatever you can to reduce your stress level, wear sunscreen to prevent the sun's rays from triggering attacks, avoid excessive holiday consumption of alcoholic beverages (another known trigger), and try to keep your face protected from cold wind. During all the excitement and chaos of the holidays, don't forget to take the rosacea medication prescribed by your dermatologist.
Your winter holidays should feature pleasant experiences, not health crises. Take common-sense precautions and you'll find that your skin can weather the season just fine. Have a healthy, comfortable holiday! For more information or advice about skin care, consider consulting a professional like those at Advanced Dermatology Care.
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