We asked Dr. Sharon Littzi, owner of Aesthetic Dermatology of Fairfield County in New Canaan, what her secret is for picture perfect skin during the cold winter months.
Q: What is the most essential thing we can do to care for our skin in the winter?
A: There are three things, and all involve using specific products. Moisturize, use sun protection for exposed areas, and get enough Vitamin D.
Most people don’t realize that your skin is the primary barrier to the external world. If the skin is dry, it’s compromised, and can have tiny, little holes through which various infections, viruses and fungus can enter our body. Dry skin also makes you look more wrinkly.
Q: What would you recommend as a typical morning skin care routine?
A: First thing, use a gentle cleanser with a few, simple ingredients like oatmeal or sesame that are natural and organic (Whole Foods has great options). I always advise clients that if you wouldn’t eat the ingredients in a certain product, you probably shouldn’t put the product on your skin. I like natural sesame or green tea soaps that we sell as part of our Premier line of skin care products in the office. These items are 100% organic and have been chemically tested to make sure there are no pesticides, additives or GMOs.
After cleaning your face, apply a medium weight moisturizer to hydrate the skin in winter. When choosing a moisturizer, two good ingredients to look for are borage (a natural herb) and hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid may be purchased in pure form, which absorbs 200x the amount of water, so once applied to the skin it will stay hydrated.
Q: Why is it important to use sunscreen in the winter?
A: Even in winter, I don’t recommend getting sun on the face, because 90% of aging is due to sun damage. Although the sun isn’t as strong in winter, you’re still getting the damaging UVA rays (that make you tan) and UVB rays (that cause deeper skin damage). Just getting in and out of a car is enough exposure to get sun damage. Apply your sunscreen after moisturizing, and before you put on make up. The tinted sunscreens on the market are great. Don’t forget to moisturize and sunscreen your hands, too!
Q: What do you recommend for moisturizing the body?
A: Two great oils for the skin are coconut and jojoba. These organic based oils can be applied to damp skin after a shower or bath, and are available at a health food stores or grocery stores like Whole Foods.
Aloe is great at hydrating and soothing dry skin—you can squeeze it straight from the leaf or buy organic bottled aloe in stores. Taking oatmeal baths is another great way to stave off dry skin. Aveeno is a good brand, or you can make your own by grinding up organic oatmeal in a blender until it becomes a powder, and sprinkle some into your bathwater to help keep skin moisturized. You can also add eucalyptus or lavender oil to the bath. People who are highly allergic may need to be careful of essential oils.
Q: Why is Vitamin D so important?
A: Vitamin D performs over 2000 enzymatic actions in the body, affects our moods and energy levels, is important for healthy bones, and can protect us from diseases like cancer. This vitamin is manufactured by the skin when it’s exposed to UVB rays from natural sunlight. During the winter months when most of our skin is covered, our bodies don’t produce as much Vitamin D as we need to stay healthy. It’s difficult to get enough of this vitamin through our diet, so the only other way is to take a Vitamin D3 supplement, at least 2000iu per day (1000 iu for children).
Q: Are there other supplements you recommend taking in winter?
A: Yes. Many people are deficient in B Vitamins in our area of the country, especially women who take birth control pills. If you are deficient in these vitamins, you can have extremely dry skin, and other serious problems involving detoxification, energy and brain function. Ask your doctor about taking a quality B-complex supplement that includes the full range of B vitamins—don’t just take one specific B Vitamin—it can throw off the other Bs and their functions.
Q: How do you treat rashes, eczema or dry spots that appear in winter?
A: Most of the time, moisturizing can help. If the irritated area doesn’t clear up after several days, or if there is any yellowish crusting or oozing, you need to see a doctor, who might prescribe a cream like Hydrocortisone.
Q: What other ways can we keep our skin healthy in winter?
A: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink water all day long—at least 64 ounces a day. If you’re not sure you’re getting enough fluids, do the pinch test. Pinch the skin on the surface of your hand, then let go. If the skin bounces back quickly, you’re probably ok, but if the skin doesn’t spring back right away, you might be dehydrated.
Q: Is there anything specific we can do for healthy hair and nails?
A: You’ll probably need to moisturize these more in winter. Use good, natural organic conditioners. I recommend the Organix brand of hair care products—the keratin one, especially. I also suggest applying a thick foot cream at night or just after the shower. Keep in mind that dry skin on your feet will increase your chance of getting Athlete’s Foot fungus. If your feet have dry spots that don’t go away with moisturizer, see a doctor. During winter time our hands are exposed to so many chemicals, so keep your hands washed and moisturized. Remember to check products’ labels and choose ones with natural ingredients. Whatever you put on your skin, you are actually ingesting.
Do you have any new exciting services to offer?
A: Yes! Beginning in February we will offer “Forever Young BBL Therapy”, a new laser therapy that reverses the sign of aging through light.
Aesthetic Dermatology of Fairfield County
1 Morse Court, New Canaan; 203-966-2336