How Should You Take Care of Your Skin in Winter?: An Interview with Dr. Glenn Kolansky, M.D.



Dr. Glenn Kolansky, M.D. is a board certified dermatologist located in New Jersey. He is a diplomat for the American Academy of Dermatology and the National Board of Medical Examiners. He’s a fellow for the American Academy of Dermatology, The American Society of Deratological Surgery, the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery, and the American College of Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology.
As a volunteer for the American Cancer Society, he travels giving lectures and provide skin cancer screenings. He was awarded the “Physician of Hope” award by the American Cancer Society. 

What are some of the things that happen to skin in winter?

Winter weather can wreak havoc on skin, especially when you’re going from cold to hot constantly.

What happens in the wintertime is that cold weather causes the blood vessels and the skin to constrict, and you also get less blood supply going to the skin’s surface. When you go in from the cold to a dry, heated room it just causes the skin to become dryer, water evaporates. When you go from hot to cold your skin tends to lose moisture and just dry out.

How should people change their routines to account for this change in winter?

It depends on the type of skin you have. If you tend to have oily skin you probably have to do a minimal, light moisturizer in the winter. But for most people with normal to dry skin, should use products that have ceramides and hyaluronic acid. These ingredients help the skin hold moisture. I personally believe you should use products that are fragrance-free.

What Ingredients should people look for in the wintertime?

Look for moisturizers with hyaluronic acid and ceramides.

If you look for these ingredients: Products like dimethicone and glycerin are humectants, they draw water to the skin, and so the skin can absorb more moisture. And during the winter when you get dead skin cells, products that have urea or lactic acid to remove those buildup of dead skin cells.

Use moisturizers such as Cetaphil Restoraderm, products like CeraVe that have the ceramides. They’re barrier repair moisturizers. They increase the skin’s hydration to reduce the water losses, that way the skin stays softer and moister.

When should people use occlusive moisturizers in wintertime?

I think at nighttime. You generally don’t use grease during the day. What you try to do with an occlusive moisturizer is hold water in the skin. So what I tell people is generally during the winter time and using at night, you should use a grease moisturizer, products that have lanolin — if you’re not allergic — mineral oil, and petroleum jelly. They keep the moisture in the skin.

After you take a shower or bath, you absorb a certain amount of moisture. While skin is still damp, if you put a greasy moisturizer on, it locks the water into the skin.

What kind of soaps should people use in winter?

Dr. Kolanksy uses gentle Cetaphil soap.

I think washing with gentle, moisturizing soaps is important. I try to tell people to look for soaps or liquids that are white and cream. Dove makes body washes for both men and women, for example. Eucerin makes some products, there’s lot of products on the market to moisturize on the skin.

I think you should avoid stuff that has strong detergents; more so, in the winter when skin tends to be drier. Cetaphil makes a Restoreaderm cleanser. If your skin is dry and it cleans your skin without drying it out. If you have oil in your skin, it won’t remove that oil. I personally wash with Cetaphil soap. It’s great on my body, but sometimes on my face I use a scrub or something to actually clean it, because it doesn’t cut the oil on the skin.

What’s one of the worst things that people do to their skin in the winter?

Sunscreen is just as important in winter as in summer. Don’t get burned out on the slopes!

The worst thing that they can do is go out without a sunscreen. People lose track of the fact that even though you go to the ski slope, the sunrays are reflecting off the snow and you can become sunburned, even though you’re not going to the beach. The sun reflecting off the ski slopes, the snow, when going out in the winter there are times the sunrays are quite strong and you can get a burn or sunburn.

Sometimes you’ll have a mom come in and say, “You know it was a cloudy day and I was sitting and watching the kids play soccer,” and she comes in with a sunburn. You just don’t think about it. They weren’t at the beach or it wasn’t that sunny, but in the wintertime because it’s cold, the natural thing is not to think of sunscreen.

You’re at the risk of burning. If you burn on the ski slopes from the sun reflecting off the snow it’s similar to or actually worse depending on where you’re at to going to the beach.

If you had one piece of advice to give to FutureDerm readers, what would it be?

Moisturize and use sunscreen, those would be the key winter skin care tips. Look for a cleanser that’s white and creamy and apply moisturizer and sunscreen often.

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  • Catarina

    I have two questions:

    Is dimethicone really a humectant as Glycerin in a sense that it draws water to the skin? I have regarded it as an emollient or occlusive agent so far.

    As the skin is an excreting organ, and excretes mainly over night doesn’t an very occlusive agent like petroleum jelly (not totally occlusive, I know) prevent that process?

  • Josephine

    Cetaphil doesn’t do it for me. At all. Some products that work wonders for me in the winter:

    La Roche Posay Lipikar Surgras Cleansing Bar
    La Roche Posay Lipikar Syndet Soap-free Cleansing Gel
    Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Wash
    Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash & Glytone Body Moisturizer
    AmLactin Moisturizing Body Lotion & AmLactin Foot Cream
    Eve Lom Cleanser & Eve Lom Morning Cleanser
    Dermalogica Age Smart Skin Resurfacing Cleanser (lactic acid)
    Crab Tree & Evelyn Hand Therapy (not greasy!) and CCS heel balm
    Zents Ore Hand Wash (retinyl, c, e, shea, green tea etc.)

    All awesome! IMHO

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