As reported by the Journal Inquirer, January 7, 2008.

Hot Winter Survival Tips from Skin Care Experts

By Karine Abalyan

New England winters can wage war on your skin - leaving it dry, cracked, and itchy. But there are steps you can take to minimize damage and maintain that smooth, summer look.

Dermatologists stress using thick, heavy moisturizers on all parts of the body is an effective way to protect the skin.

Amy Payne, a dermatologist at the University of Connecticut Dermatology Associates in East Hartford, says she likes Vaseline best.

"It's not very elegant," she says, "but it's cheap. You can buy a big tub of it and it works."

Other brands of petroleum jelly can also do the job, doctors say. Just remember, "the greasier, the better," Payne says.

But for those who cringe at the prospect of slimy, shiny skin, Sharon Christie, a dermatologist who runs Enfield Dermatology LLC, says less gooey substitutes can work.

Christie says "not all creams are very sticky," adding that products like Aveeno oatmeal lotion or Aveeno oatmeal bath treatments - moisturizing powders that dissolve in water - can do the trick.

After you've found an ointment that works, it's important to apply it correctly. Both Payne and Christie recommend using creams after the shower.

"It's really key whatever moisturizer a person likes or ends up using" to put it on wet skin, Christie says. This seals in moisture and keeps skin hydrated.

There are also things you can do in the shower to achieve softer skin.

For one, avoid gel-based body wash and antibacterial soap, Christie says. These products may contain alcohol and other ingredients that dry out the skin.

Instead, she suggests using creamy body wash during the winter months, such as Dove or Aveeno, and switching to mild soap that doesn't contain triclosan - an active ingredient in antibacterial soaps that can irritate the skin.

And while hot showers and baths can be welcome respite on snowy days, doctors say these luxuries have a negative impact on skin.

"Water exposure is like an evaporation process," Christie says, explaining that too much showering or frequent visits to the pool makes skin lose water.

Excessive showering also washes out the body's natural moisturizers, making it more difficult for the skin to battle the harsh conditions outdoors.

But don't be fooled into thinking that cold weather alone destroys your barrier to the world. The heat in your home or office can likewise leave skin feeling like sandpaper.

That's why doctors say investing in humidifiers is a good idea. Christie says keeping the device in your bedroom helps hydrate your skin while you sleep.

For those willing to splurge, spas are offering their own take on skin hydration.

At the Azure Hair and Day Spa in Manchester, customers can request a paraffin wrap, which involves brushing the body with a special wax, wrapping it in blankets, and exposing it to heat lamps.

Aesthetician Kathy Lulick says the approach "makes you sweat," allowing the balmy substance to penetrate the pores.

The spa also offers facials that use heavy cream and sells Sothys and Bioelements products to cleanse and lubricate the skin at home. Onsite services start at $60.

But perhaps Lulick's simplest tip is to use sunscreen. She says protection from ultraviolet rays shouldn't be overlooked when it gets cold because the sun can be especially strong in the wintertime as it bounces off snow banks and hits exposed skin.

Angela Sonnenreich, manager at the Somers Day Spa & Hair Salon, recommends a hydration facial, complete with a moisturizing cleanser and a nutrient-replenishing mask.

The spa's salt scrub, she says, can also come in handy to brush off those flaky, dead skin cells.

In addition, the center's aestheticians can come up with a regimen of products and treatments tailored to a customer's skin type. But expect to spend at least $69 if you stop by for services.

If left untreated, dry, broken skin might allow harmful organisms to enter the body, causing skin infections. In some cases, Christie says, dryness and scratching can result in discoloration or thicken the skin.

The effects are not life threatening, Payne says, but skin "can get itchy and inflamed."

And if you're reaching to rub that dry spot, remember that scratching only leads to more itching, so it's critical to be patient and wait for your skin to heal.

"It can get pretty bad," Payne says, but adds that it's important to be persistent and keep up with moisturizing and other treatments daily.