It’s time to winterize skin

Dr. Gifford Jones offers five tips to keeping your skin as healthy as can be

My editor, namely my wife of 62 years, recently said to me, “I’m getting tired of reading about Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular problems, cancer and other dreadful ailments. Why don’t you, for one week, give us a break from depressing disease? I’m sure readers would like to learn how to protect skin during the coming winter season.”

One thing I’ve learned over the years is you never say no to an editor, particularly one who is your wife! So I interviewed experts about winterizing skin so it doesn’t look like dried prune. And are natural remedies available?

Rule #1

To show I’m not totally controlled by my editor, I’ll start with medical advice that’s good for all seasons. Stop smoking. Years ago I interviewed Richard Peto, professor of Epidemiology at Oxford University. His research shows that smoking decreases your time on this planet by 20 years. In addition, you won’t look very good as you enter the pearly gates. Years of smoking will have narrowed tiny arteries in the skin, robbing them of oxygen and nutrients such as Vitamin C. Since this vitamin is necessary for the production of collagen, the glue that holds skin cells together, you will have more wrinkles with less C. Mayo clinic doctors raise another interesting point about smoking, that pursing the lips when inhaling, then squinting the eyes when exhaling to keep out the smoke, increases wrinkles. Moreover, heat and smoke from cigarettes damage skin over the years.

Rule #2

Do I always practice what I preach? Yes, I try to follow a sound lifestyle, having reached my 94th year! But I do cheat on one rule. In winter, I love a long, hot, morning shower. Not a good idea. It causes dry, itchy, skin. So, take short baths and showers in cold weather with warm, not hot water.

Rule #3

Dermatologists advise against the use of strong soaps that strip oil from skin leaving it dry. They suggest mild soaps or detergent substitutes which contain added oils and fats. For instance, Dove, Purpose, Cliniderm and Cetaphil.

Rule #4

Several specialists I interviewed advised against soap additives, such as perfumes and dyes which can irritate skin and may cause allergic reaction. When wearing makeup, use a soft sponge or cotton balls to remove it. And for heavy waterproof makeup you need oil based products such as petrolatium jelly or Aquaphor. Finally, they say, be sure to pat skin dry with a soft towel. All this sounds very time-consuming to me. Possibly this is why more men end up with prune faces than women!

Rule #5

Today, in large cities, the buzz word for prime real estate is location, location, location. The prime secret for healthy skin is moisture, moisture, moisture, to prevent winter itch and dry skin. Overheated homes, fireplaces, carpets and furniture all suck moisture out of the air. One study showed that the average home in winter is as dry as the Sahara Desert!

I hope deviation from human illness this week pleases my editor and readers. I have never been an advocate of radical skin treatment such as plastic surgery or Botox injections. Rather, I believe it makes more sense to treat skin with TLC (tender loving care) over a lifetime. This means moisture, moisture, moisture.

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