Dry Skin & skin care in winter

1. How season change affects dry skin

During summer and rainy season, the relative humidity in atmosphere prevents water evaporation from stratum corneum , the outermost  layer of skin. During winter,it is just the otherway round,i.e., there is evaporation of water from epidermis of skin because of very less relative humidity in the atmosphere.The stratum corneum or the outermost layer of skin acts as an epidermal barrier and tries to maintain skin hydration as far as possible. 

2. Problems of dry skin in winter (kids)

The commonest problem is aggravation of Atopic Dermatitis, a type of eczema which mostly affects infants and children. Either the child suffers from recurrent sneezing( allergic rhinitis) or bronchial asthma. There may be a history of similar problem in parents, grand parents or siblings. This is a genetically determined skin disease which often runs in families. The basic defect of skin in atopic dermatitis is ‘dry skin’, which in technical term known as ‘xerosis’

Another problem is a skin condition known as ‘ichthyosis’ which is a hereditary skin problem that manifests as fish like scales fixed over skin ( ichthyos in Latin ‘fish’)

The other problem is ‘psoriasis’ where red scaly patches develops over body and there is excessive dry scaling over scalp which is usually labeled as ‘dandruff’.

Children suffering from malnutrition, hypothyroidism or diabetes can have very severe dry skin in winter.    

3. Probability of allergy and skin infections and treatment

Probability of skin allergy is fairly common in dry skin in winter. Apart from atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, irritant dermatitis, napkin rash all are more common over dry skin. These are treated with moderately or low potent steroid cream/ointment and moisturisers (emollients). For itching oral antihistaminics are given.

Staphylococcal bacterial infections, fungal infections and herpes virus infections are common. Oral antibiotics, antifungals and antiviral tablets or syrup are given. Additionally antbiotic, antifungal or antiviral  cream/ointments are also useful. 

4. Prevention & Regular skin care regimen

  • to wear full sleeve cotton clothes so that the skin over limbs are protected from exposure to cold in winter. Synthetic clothes are irritant for dry skin. Woolens also should not touch the dry sensitive skin of babies. There should always be a cotton clothe underneath on top of which the child should wear woollen sweater, clothes etc.

  • giving a good oil massage before bath either with olive oil or coconut oil

  •  avoid using mustard oil which may irritate dry skin and on exposure to sun tans the skin

  • use moisturising soaps or liquid soaps( called synthetic detergents or ‘syndets’)

  • to give bath in lukewarm water, not cold water

  • avoid using any antiseptic either in bathing water or as soap. Antiseptics remove the normal commensal bacteria, fungus from skin whch act as border security force for skin and protect skin from environmental virulent organisms.

  • to use a moisturiser at least 3-4 times a day. the moisturiser should contain white soft paraffin or vaseline

  • to avoid dietary items if any known to aggravate skin allergy over past few years during winter

5. Dos and Don'ts to maintain a clean skin

  • use soap regularly

  • maintain cleanliness and good hygiene

  • avoid pets at home as animal fur or danders are extremely bad for dry allergic skin of babies

  • avoid wearing metal charms and amulets. The metal can cause irritation on dry skin and the thread can harbour bacteria and fungus

  • the child should avoid touching plants, which can cause allergic reaction on skin

6. Diet to keep skin nourishing

  1. A balanced diet with good amount of protein, omega 3 and omega 6 rich fats and carbohydrates in an appropriate ratio

  2. Green leafy vegetables serve as antioxidants

  3. All seasonal fruits also supply antioxidants

  4. plenty of water/fruit juices

7. Lifestyle Management

  • not to expose to outside cold too much, restrict outdoor activities as far as possible

  • avoid dietary items in excess of  which can add unnecessary calories like chocolate, chips, cold drinks, ice creams