When winter winds start to blow, skin needs extra protection to keep it from becoming overly dry and itchy and prevent painful cracking. Cracked skin is far more likely to develop infections, which can spread to other areas of the body as well. Plus, itchy skin is more likely to be damaged by repeated scratching, resulting in sores as well as an increased risk of potentially serious infections.
While it's true anyone of any age can experience the drying, damaging effects of winter winds, senior skin is especially susceptible. That's because as we get older, our skin loses much of its natural ability to retain moisture, and it also becomes thinner, which means it can be damaged more easily by scratching.
As the largest organ of your body, your skin plays a critical role in maintaining your health, protecting your organs and other tissues from invasions by harmful pathogens. It just makes sense to provide it with the extra protection it needs during the winter months to help ensure it can keep providing that important protection. And the good news is, incorporating a regular plan of winter skincare into your senior healthcare routine is easy—just start with these five essential steps:
Moisturize! Moisturizer keeps skin supple, and it also helps create a barrier to evaporation caused by dry air so skin doesn't crack and itch. Keep a container of moisturizer in your purse or glove compartment so you can use it throughout the day while you're out, and keep containers by your sinks and shower as well. For extra benefits, slather on some moisturizer right before bed, and wear socks and gloves to give feet and hands an extra dose of softness.
Avoid hot showers and baths. They may feel like a little slice of heaven after a day in the cold air, but hot water actually causes skin to become depleted of its natural oils, making it more prone to the harsh effects of dry air. Opt for warm water when you shower, or if you must take a hot, steamy shower, keep it as brief as possible. And of course, be sure to moisturize after getting out of the shower or bath.
Be sure to drink plenty of water. Healthy, supple skin needs to be moisturized from the inside as well as the outside, and drinking plenty of water during the day is the best way to keep your skin and the rest of your body hydrated. If you have diabetes, ask your senior healthcare provider about a recommended amount of fluids to drink during the day to avoid putting extra strain on your kidneys.
Stay bundled up. Keeping your skin protected from cold winter air is vitally important when you're out and about. Choose a soft scarf and gloves as well as socks that help wick away moisture. Even brief exposures to winter's cold, dry air can dry out your skin, so consider keeping your hat and scarf near the door or tucked inside your coat pockets so you don't forget them.
Consider a humidifier. During winter, the air indoors can be almost as dry as the air outside—and sometimes drier. Adding a humidifier to your living area or bedroom (or both!) helps replace moisture lost to winter's dry air, and it can also help with breathing issues by keeping your airways and mucus membranes moist so they're able to battle germs better.
Keeping skin healthy during the drying months of winter is an important part of senior healthcare. Set aside some time each day to pamper your skin, and it will reward you with a softer, smoother texture as well as a significantly decreased risk of dangerous infections.