Keeping Skin Healthy in Winter

Much of the country has been dealing with extreme cold, snow and very dry conditions this winter. Even Alabama saw over half a foot of snow in the last storm. This presents those of us in the areas that don't normally get this type of real winter a few challenges that may be new. No, not driving on slick roads. I'm talking about dry skin.

This skin is our largest organ. It is our first line of defense against both injury and germs. Keeping it healthy this time of year can help prevent bacteria on things we touch from getting in. Frequent, thorough hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent getting sick. Unfortunately, all that hand washing, combined with low humidity, can lead to dry, cracked, and even bleeding skin. Even our pets are at risk of developing dry, flaky, itchy skin. This can then lead to excessive scratching, chewing and biting, which can quickly escalate to a hot spot or other skin infection. So what can we do?

I've had several people ask me lately what they should do for their pets itchy skin. Many are already taking steps towards good skin, like giving fish or coconut oil daily. Here's how I look at it. Whatever you do for yourself or your pet year round is what I call the baseline. That's what keeps everything working well under normal circumstances. What we've been experiencing lately is not normal. I have a thermometer/humidity gauge in my bedroom. Last week it was reading about 16% humidity. That's extremely low! We have officially entered "bring in the big guns" weather. For me, that means using body butter instead of or in combination with lotion. For pets, it means upping the amount of fatty acids(fish or coconut oil) in the diet, and possibly applying it topically. Some dogs will just lick off any coconut oil that you apply topically, which is counterproductive. In that case, wetting them down and applying a combination of conditioner and coconut oil and leaving it on for a few minutes before rinsing can be very helpful. Just make sure to dry them thoroughly afterwards. Using a humidifier can make a difference, as well.

Some of the best choices for moisturizing human skin include cocoa butter, shea butter, and oils from coconut, sweet almond, avocado, apricot, jojoba, and olive. Pay extra attention to the cuticle area, since this tends to be the first place skin breaks occur. Also, applying a heavy layer of moisture before bed, and wearing soft gloves to sleep can work wonders. And don't forget to drink plenty of water!

Consistency is key when it comes to fighting dry, winter skin. Apply moisturizer frequently, and remember that spring is just around the corner.