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Put dry skin problems to rest

By Renee Berg

lifestyle@postbulletin.com

Minnesota winters bring a host of problems, among them cabin fever and temperatures too daunting for outdoor exercise except for the hardiest of us.

So if the TV is what’s keeping you company of late, grab a bottle of lotion and lather your hands and any other area burdened by dry skin while you take in yet another not-that-funny reality show or sitcom.

Dry skin is a top complaint for Mayo Clinic’s dermatology patients during the winter, according to Dr. Marian T. McEvoy, who says dropping temps and humidity cause skin to chafe. People’s hands are typically their first trouble spot, she says, followed by their legs.

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McEvoy and www.mayoclinic.

com offer the following tips for keeping skin as moist as possible during the winter.

• Avoid frequent and long showers and baths, which remove protective oils from your skin, leaving it prone to dryness. If you do opt for long, hot showers, pat your skin dry afterward and apply lotion immediately.

• Shop for a less abrasive soap (Neurtrogena, Basis or Dove are recommended) than you may normally use. Deodorant, antibacterial soaps and detergents dry out your skin.

• Use a humidifier to retain moisture in your house.

• Wear fabrics that are soft on your skin. Cotton and silk allow your skin to breathe, while wool can cause irritation.

• Apply moisturizer or cream every time you wash your hands or bathe. Moisturizer seals your skin to keep it from chafing. If your skin is exceptionally dry, use baby oil while your skin is still damp, which protects your skin longer than moisturizer or lotion.

Gary Pundt, pharmacist at the Medicine Shoppe in Rochester, says fighting dry skin starts with frequent application of moisturizer.

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"Moisture is the key to protecting your skin," Pundt says. "When bathing or showering, try to pat dry with a towel and if you need to apply those lotions and creams, apply them as quickly as possible afterward."

Chris Splittstoesser, a secretary for Rochester Community Education, is plagued with dry skin on her hands. She applies lotion every half hour while working at her desk, and after every hand washing. Her favorite remedy is body cream from Bath & Body Works.

"You don’t want to have greasy hands when you’re working with the phone and computer," Splittstoesser says. "I’ve tried a few products and I like the body cream best because it isn’t greasy."

If your dry skin is becoming unbearable, consider seeing your doctor. Medical treatment may be necessary if your skin doesn’t improve with self-treatment, dryness interferes with sleeping, you have open sores from scratching or you have large areas of peeling skin.

Renee Berg of Rochester is a free-lance writer.

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