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Dry Winter Skin: The Facts & The Myths

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The winter months are notorious for their accompanying skin problems. Rather than suffer through, the WCCO Morning Show decided to call the doctor in to find out what's really happening to our skin this time of year. Natalie Nyhus talked with Dr. Jess Prischmann about some of the truths and myths surrounding this stretch of "alligator skin" weather. Here are the topics they discussed:

If you have cracked skin, is that normal?

"Normal" or not, you want to do all you can to avoid getting to the point where your skin is cracking. And if your skin is starting to become significantly cracked, your skin may need medical attention.

If you get cracked skin, should you wash it more frequently to prevent infection?

In the sense that washing will prevent infection, yes, you should pay attention to sanitization. However, Prischmann said, you should do all you can not to get to that point in the first place. You should be restoring the skin barrier of moisture.

When it comes to moisturizing, what should we be using? Are creams better than lotions?

Creams and lotions can both be very good, and their effectiveness may vary from person to person. For instance, some have reactions to lanolin. Others may have ingredients that work particularly well for  restoring that barrier. Prischmann pointed out a number of lotions that include such things as U-lactin or urea.

Are all lotions created equal?

"Listen to your body and what it's telling you. Not all lotions are created equal," Prischmann said. She added that you should really try to avoid lotions that have a lot of fragrances in them, or other additives that could irritate your skin and cause inflammation. Some of the lotions that are fragrance-forward only soften the skin, but do little to protect it, Prischmann pointed out.

Does drinking a lot of water prevent dry skin?

While drinking water is obviously the way to prevent dehydration inside your body, it is a myth to think that it's going to keep your skin moist, Prischmann said. "You need to really seal your skin to prevent moisture loss," she said.

Is Crisco good for dry skin?

"At first, the thought of Crisco on your skin sounds a little wacky," Prischmann said, "but a lot of moistures are combinations of oil and water, and so it kind of makes sense that people would try Crisco ... or olive oil. But nowadays there are so many great products out there. I think you should stick with something pure, that's meant for your skin. Maybe not Crisco."

Prischmann had lists of simple tips to prevent and to treat dry skin in the wintertime. Among her suggestions for preventing dry skin:

1. Avoid harsh soaps and lotions with perfume.
2. Use humidifiers inside.
3. Use warm water, rather than hot, in baths and when washing hands.
4. Moisturize frequently.
5. Rotate brands of dandruff shampoo for best results.

And here were the tips Prischmann provided for treating dry skin:

1. Choose creamy soaps with added oils. Avoid foamy cleansers.
2. Moisturize skin immediately after hand washing and bathing.
3. Choose natural fibers such as cotton and silk. Avoid wool.
4. Calm itchy skin with cool compresses.
5. Seek medical care for severely dry skin.

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