Prevent winter skin worries

THE dry weather we have during the winter months can cause dry and irritated skin.

THE dry weather we have during the winter months can cause dry and irritated skin.

And when your skin becomes dry and irritated eczema can flare up. Here are some tips to help your skin feel more comfortable and moisturised during winter - or any time when the air is dry:

Use a humidifier. With the heat on and the windows closed, the air inside can become dry , making the dryness and itching of eczema even worse.

Use a humidifier or just boil water to replace moisture in the air.

If you don't want to invest in an expensive humidifier you can buy smaller, relatively inexpensive ones at your local pharmacy.

By placing two or three of these around your home you'll help humidify the dry air. This also keeps skin from drying out and becoming cracked and itchy.

Switch to an oil-based moisturiser and moisturise frequently. The more oil a moisturiser contains the more effectively it protects against your skin's moisture loss.

Moisturisers that come in ointment form contain the most oil because an ointment, by definition, consists of 80 percent oil and 20 percent water.

This water-in-oil emulsion forms a protective layer on the skin and makes it more "moisturising" than creams and lotions.

Ointments are especially beneficial when humidity is low. Ointments should not be used on areas of the body that tend to get hot and sweaty.

Use barriers. Before going outside in winter apply a heavy layer of moisturising broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to the face, hands and any other skin that might be exposed.

This will act as a barrier to help protect your skin against the harsh elements and is especially important if you are going to be outside for any length of time.

Sunscreen is important in winter as well as summer. The sun's damaging ultra-violet radiation is also high in the winter.

Nowadays several products are available that combine oily, moisturising cream with sun screen. Ask your dermatologist.

Grab those gloves. Protecting hands from the cold air and low humidity plays an important role in preventing flare-ups. Make sure the gloves are made from material that does not irritate your skin.

Some people find that wearing cotton gloves next to the skin and a woollen glove over that, keeps hands warm and dry.

Dress in layers. The most common triggers of the scratch and itch cycle are sweating and overheating. Wearing layers allows you to remove clothing as needed to prevent overheating. Be sure to wear loose-fitting cotton fabrics next to your skin.

Keep dry. Shed wet clothes and shoes immediately. These can irritate the skin.