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Healthy Skin and Hair

Don’t let winter dry out your beautiful skin and hair.

Michigan winters are tough on your hair and skin. Cold weather brings lower levels of humidity (moisture) in the air, which naturally draws precious moisture and oils out of your skin and hair. The furnaces and fireplaces we use to heat our homes only make matters worse – further drying out the air and our skin. While some furnaces feature humidifiers to add moisture back into the heated air in your home, it’s seldom enough. You still have that dry outdoor air to contend with every time you step outside.

Dry skin can range in severity from a minor, itchy annoyance to a painful condition like nummular or discoid dermatitis, which is characterized by round or oval-shaped itchy lesions on the skin. “We see a lot of women and men who suffer with severely dry skin during the winter,” said Lorna Thomas, M.D., a dermatologist with DMC Women’s Health Services. “Fortunately, there are some very simple ways to avoid getting dry skin.”

Tips for Healthy Skin 
  • Stay out of the tub. Soaking in a hot tub draws moisture out of your skin. Dr. Thomas suggests taking showers instead.
  • Avoid daily showers. Just like that hot bathtub, a hot shower draws moisture out of your skin. But unless you are doing physical labor or working in a job that gets you very dirty, most people don’t need to shower every day. “I don’t encourage my patients to shower on a daily basis,” Dr. Thomas said. “If they shower two or three times a week, I’m happy.”
  • Take short showers. The longer you stay in the shower, the more you’ll dry your skin out. “Get in, get washed and get out,” Dr. Thomas said. There’s no need to shower for longer than five minutes. “A lot of people think they are taking a short shower, but they’re really not. They might actually be in there for 10 or 15 minutes.” Bring a kitchen timer into the bathroom and set it for five minutes. This will help you make sure you do not stay in the shower too long.
  • Don’t steam up the bathroom. Keep the water temperature in your shower comfortably warm, but not too hot. The hotter the water, the more moisture it will draw out of your skin. “I tell people that if the mirrors are fogged up after you get out of the shower, your shower was too hot.”
  • Use fragrance-free soap. Ingredients commonly used to make soap fragrant can also irritate the skin. Avoid deodorant soaps at all costs. Dr. Thomas recommends Cetaphil® soap or Dove® for Sensitive Skin. “But if they buy Dove, they need to make sure it’s the kind for sensitive skin because the other Dove products have fragrances, which tend to dry your skin.”
  • Avoid body wash or gel products. Many body wash products include alcohol, which tends to dry the skin. “I always try to steer people away from the body wash products and back to the bar of soap.”
  • Lather is overrated. Don’t worry about whether the soap you use creates a soapy lather as you shower. According to Dr. Thomas, lather does nothing to clean your skin.
  • Moisturize after your shower. After your shower, take a few extra minutes and apply a fragrance-free, petroleum-based moisturizer to your body before you get dressed.

“A few simple changes in your routine can make a big difference for your skin,” Dr. Thomas said. “It only takes 14 days to develop a habit. So if you just force yourself to do these things for a few weeks, it’ll become second nature in no time.”

Tips for Healthy Hair

Your daily behaviors and routines can also impact the health of your hair. Dr. Thomas suggests several simple ways to maintain healthier hair during winter.

  • Wash your hair. “Believe it or not, some people just don’t wash their hair very often,” Dr. Thomas said. “At a minimum, you should wash your hair once every seven days. You can wash it more frequently than that, but no less.” Failure to wash your hair frequently can cause an inflammatory condition of the scalp called seborrheic dermatitis, which requires medical attention.
  • Use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. Make sure your shampoo includes a moisturizer to replenish the natural moisture in your hair. “And if you wash your hair every day, be sure to use a moisturizing conditioner too.”
  • Avoid hot, steamy showers. Just as hot water dries out your skin, it can dry out your hair too. “Your hair is a skin structure, so many of the same rules apply to your hair,” Dr. Thomas said.

“Moisture, moisture, moisture is the operative word,” Dr. Thomas said. “We’re rehydrating the hair and skin and putting the moisture back in. Obviously, in a hot and humid July, all of these things are less important than they are during the dry winter months.”


But even during the summer, Dr. Thomas recommends keeping showers to less than five minutes; keeping the water warm, not hot; and shampooing at least once a week if not more frequently. “Those rules apply year round.”


To schedule an appointment with Dr. Thomas, or another dermatology expert at DMC Women’s Health Services, call 1-888-DMC-2500.

Lorna Thomas, M.D.

Lorna Lacen Thomas, M.D. is a graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Michigan Medical School. She completed her internship and postgraduate residency training in Dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital, where she was the first African American Chief Resident in Dermatology. She is board-certified in Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.


She is a member of the American Medical Association, National Medical Association, Michigan State Medical Society, Wayne County Medical Society and the Women’s Dermatological Society. She is also a member of the Michigan Dermatological Society, where she was the first African American female President. Dr. Thomas is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Detroit Receiving Hospital, and a member of the Boards of the Detroit Medical




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