Cooler weather can lead to annoying dry skin conditions

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Oswald Lightsey Mikell

Summer is over and the cooler weather is finally here. Although we may enjoy the break from the high humidity, the dryer air may leave you feeling cracked and pale.

Dry skin during the fall and winter months is something many people deal with. It might be unsightly and can itch or be painful. Very dry skin can even crack and be prone to infection.

It's best to take steps to prevent your skin from drying out. When it starts to itch or feel dry, you should begin treatment so it won't get any worse.

Q: What can I do to prevent dry skin?

A: The first step should always be to cleanse the skin thoroughly. And the second step is to moisturize. Your fall skin routine might differ from your summer routine.

If you're feeling uncomfortable about how you look or feel, you should consult your dermatologist for a program customized for you.

Q: Is sunscreen helpful in the fall?

A: Sunscreen isn't just for summertime! It protects the skin from the long ultraviolet A rays and helps prevent redness. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to your face and your hands about 30 minutes before going outside - year-round. Reapply frequently if you stay outside a long time.

Q: What should I know about itchy skin?

A: Itchy skin can be irritating, painful and accompanied by a rash. Symptoms of itchy skin may be red bumps, blisters and leathery thick skin. Many different things can cause itchy skin - including cool dry weather. Proper treatment is important for long-term and even instant relief.

Q: How do I know if my condition is more than just dry skin?

A: Cooler weather and eczema both can cause dry, itchy, flaky and red skin. Superficially, ordinary dry skin and eczema might look similar, but the conditions are unrelated, with different causes.

You should call your dermatologist to have your condition assessed and proper treatment prescribed.

Q: Can I treat my dry skin with over the counter products?

A: If you go to your local drugstore, you'll be hard pressed to find a salesperson who can give you good advice.

A dermatologist can analyze your skin type, troubleshoot your current skin care regimen, and give you advice on the skin care products and treatments you should be using.

Q: Can psoriasis become worse in the cooler seasons?

A: Dry air and low levels of exposure to sunlight's ultraviolet rays can aggravate psoriasis symptoms. Not only are the days shorter, but most people tend to spend less time outside, lessening the exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, which eases psoriasis in spring and summer.

Also, the lack of humidity in the air outside and the dry heat in most buildings during the colder months can rob your skin of moisture.

If you are experiencing dry skin symptoms, call a dermatologist for a consultation.

Dr. Oswald Lightsey Mikell, certified by the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, is the owner of Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry.

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