We know that getting our blood pumping through daily exercise makes our hearts happy, and we know that eschewing cigarettes keeps our lungs invigorated with oxygen, but when we think about ways to get – and stay – healthy, we don’t often consider our body’s largest organ: the skin.
Our skins house our blood, muscles, bones and organs and have a remarkable capacity to heal (just think about how quickly you’re able to bounce back from a paper cut or a bruise).
Despite our skins’ incredible fortitude, there are few common conditions skin is especially susceptible to. Dr. Sean Gunning, M.D., a dermatologist, says that atopic dermatitis (which is a kind of eczema), contact dermatitis (which is a skin reaction caused by exposure to allergens), acne, warts and skin cancer are some of the most frequent issues that bring patients through his office doors.
Dermatologists are what Gunning calls “general practitioners of the skin.” They’re the Jacks and Jills of all skin ailments; in addition to examining and assessing skin conditions, most dermatologists are also able to perform surgeries to treat skin cancers, as well as cosmetic procedures.
During the dark winter months, we’re often tempted to forgo one of the basic tenets of skin protection, which is sunscreen. Gunning uses a notable example to illustrate the importance of wearing sunscreen: “There is a famous picture of a French schoolteacher who spent her career with the right side of her face exposed to the window. The exposed area of her face appeared years – if not decades – older and had greater wrinkling and dyspigmentation.” He advocates that you wear sunscreen daily, adding that most major brands also include a moisturizer.
Moisturizers are positively vital in these months because, as Gunning reminds us, “in the winter, the temperature drops and so does the ambient humidity.” This can lead to dryer, flakier skin and flare-ups of eczema, which Gunning says are the most common winter ailments he sees.
The good news is that, with a little vigilance, you can keep your skin supple and healthy. Though trudging in from – or preparing to face – the bitter cold may make a long, hot shower seem undeniably appealing, it can dry out your skin. Gunning advises you to take a brief shower once a day. Your skin – not to mention your water bill – will thank you.
Laura Bogart is the editorial manager for the marketing department at LifeBridge Health, and the senior writer/editor for Md.MD for Life magazine. She also edits LifeBridge Health's award-winning newsletter The Bridge. She holds an MFA in writing from American University and her work has appeared in numerous literary journals.