Protecting Your Skin When It’s Cool Outside

January 01, 2020

Southern California may not be facing the extreme deep freeze of our friends in the Midwest, but even our cooler weather can leave skin dry, itchy, red, and raw. We wanted to share this handy guide to understanding your skin, how it can get dry and uncomfortable, and some solutions for keeping your skin healthy and moisturized during cold and dry days.
 

What Causes Dry Skin?

Dry Arm Skin

Did you know that it’s not just the weather that dries out your skin? Taking too many hot showers, using harsh soaps, or getting too much sun can cause your skin to dry out, flake, or become rough. There are also some medical conditions that can affect your skin in the same way.
 

A Little Bit About Skin

Epidermis Image

Our skin is made up of three layers, and each plays a part in our health. The first and deepest layer is made mostly of fat that keeps us warm, stores energy, and protects our organs from shocks. The second layer is the dermis, where blood vessels, oils, nerves, and hair follicles are located. The outer layer—what we really think of when we say “skin”—is called the epidermis. This layer is made up of stacked cells held together by a moist barrier made up of water and our own natural fats or oils. Every month these cells are shed and replaced by younger cells from lower in the epidermis.
 

How Moisturizers Work

Woman Putting Moisturizing Cream On Her Hand

The first step in fighting skin dryness is to apply a moisturizer that you can easily find in a drugstore or supermarket. These are designed to attract moisture to the skin and lock it in, smoothing rough cells and protecting them. Many moisturizers also contain emollients that fill in the spaces between skin cells, helping them lay flat and level.

Thick, greasy moisturizers are often the most effective at keeping you from losing moisture when facing dry air and wind. Be sure to apply these options right after you get out of the shower or bath, when your skin is still damp, to seal the moisture into your cells. Water-based moisturizers may not be as thick, but may be more comfortable for wearing throughout the day. 
 

How Age Affects Skin

Senior Woman Touching Her Face

We are more likely to suffer from dry skin as we age. Part of that is due to sun damage. Our skin also becomes thinner with age, making it harder to keep the moisture in the cells. Older skin alsodoesn’t produce the same amount of natural oils to protect the cells. Women, in particular, may see more dryness in their postmenopausal years as their bodies produce less of the hormones that once led to the creation of sweat and oil in the arms, legs, hands, and upper back.

Skin dryness can lead to complications including eczema, bleeding (from scratching dry, itchy skin), and even infections (from open sores), so it’s a good idea to continue to moisturize your skin, especially if you are over 64. If dryness persists, your doctor may need to prescribe stronger creams and check for medical conditions where dry skin is a symptom such as diabetes, lymphoma, psoriasis, hypothyroidism, and dermatitis.
 

Follow a Healthy Skin Care Routine

Young Woman Applying Cream On Her Face

Here are some more ways you can take care of your skin and prevent dryness year-round: 

• Use a humidifier during the winter to keep the air in your home moist 

• Keep your showers or baths short and use lukewarm (instead of hot) water

• Choose soap-free cleansers

• Apply moisturizer regularly, especially after washing your hands or bathing

• Don’t scratch your dry skin! This can lead to bleeding, skin tears, and infections. Try a cold compress to help relieve any itchiness.

• Use a good sunscreen (SPF 30+) year-round

While most Southern Californians are likely to be preoccupied with keeping cool in our blazing springs and summers, during the dry and windy months make sure you are keeping your skin healthy and moisturized to prevent scratchy, red dryness. Try different creams and lotions (fragrance and alcohol free) to find what works best for you. Ask your doctor for suggestions if your dry skin doesn’t get better when you follow these suggestions regularly. 

Are you interested in finding out other ways to keep your skin healthy all year long? Here are some suggestions for summertime healthy skin habits.

 

Sign Up for Articles

Sign up to receive email updates on the information that matters to you and those you love.

The Simple Steps to Managing Your Winter Allergies

January 04, 2019

Winter doesn’t just mean cloudy days, warm sweaters, and New Year’s resolutions, it also means another wave of allergies. Just like in the summer, many people experience symptoms like runny noses or itchy eyes during the coldest months, for a variety of reasons. Luckily, AltaMed has your back. Here’s everything you need to know about managing your allergies in the winter. 


Cold Vs. Allergies


cold meds
 It’s a feeling that’s all too familiar. You wake up one dark, winter morning with a runny nose and body aches. Getting a cold during the winter is very common, and many people with allergies may misdiagnose themselves as a result. Correctly identifying your symptoms is the first step to feeling better. Here are the key differences between winter allergies and the common cold:
 

Winter Allergies      

  • Itchy eyes and/or sore throat
  • Snot is often clear in color
  • Symptoms last several weeks or indefinitely 

                                          
Common Cold

  • Aches and chill
  • Snot is often cloudy and discolored
  • Symptoms last about a week

If your symptoms those of winter allergies, the next step is finding the cause.


Causes


dog
 People have allergic reactions to lots of different things. During the winter, cooler weather creates the ideal conditions to spread and exasperate the following common irritants:
 

Pet Dander
Your furry friend may be a perfect to snuggle when the temperature drops, but keeping 
pets such as cats or dogs inside during the winter can lead to more pet dander in the air. When dander, (dead skin flakes), is breathed in, it can trigger allergies. 
 

Mold
As the temperature drops, dying leaves become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Exposure to clothing and shoes allows theses irritants a free ride inside your home, where they can live and spread further. People with allergies may then experience itchiness, sneezing, and runny noses. 
 

Dry Air
You may just be trying to keep warm, but turning on the heat in the winter can dry out the air in your home. As a result, your sinuses can become dehydrated, leading to inflammation. Unfortunately, this makes it easier for your allergies to act up. 
 

Solutions


people on beach

AltaMed knows you’d rather be enjoying the winter season than blowing your nose. Luckily, there are steps you can take to minimize and manage your winter allergies. Try these helpful tips:

  • Install a humidifier to balance the dry air caused by heating your home. Remember though, you don’t want to over-humidify either, as this can cause mold. Both doctors and construction professionals recommend a target of 50 percent humidity.
  • Stay hydrated. Along with a humidifier, drinking water regularly will help your body the fight irritants.
  •  Vacuum frequently to remove dander and other dirt particles from your floors, carpets, and furniture.
  • Wash your sheets weekly using warm water, as high heat can help kill allergens. For extra protection, try adding hypoallergenic cases for pillows and mattresses to trap dust mites.
  • Give your pet a bath once per week, and be sure to keep them out of your bedroom if you suffer from allergies.
  • Over-the-counter medications can help relieve most allergy symptoms, from runny noses to itchy eyes. These medications will be most effective if you start taking them early. If you suffer from allergies every winter, try starting on medicine shortly before your symptoms usually appear.


Want more tips or have questions you’d like answered? Stop by an AltaMed Care location today! You can find your nearest location by clicking here: https://www.altamed.org/find

 

10 Easy Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

February 04, 2019

Trouble sleeping? You’re not alone. Thirty-five percent of American adults report getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep a night. A lack of sleep can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, and other serious health problems. Between the demands of a full-time job, raising a family, enjoying social activities, or pursuing hobbies, it’s important to give your body the rest it needs. 

At AltaMed, we know that nothing’s more frustrating than a night of tossing a turning, so we’ve created a list of 10 easy tips to help get a better, longer rest. Read on and sleep tight!


1.    Put the Phone Down


AltaMed person in bed at night on their smartphone
 
It may be tempting to check your phone one more time before going to sleep, but the blue light that our devices emit will trick your body into staying awake. Because this light is similar to the natural daylight we experience while being awake, our bodies stop producing sleeping hormones when we scroll through our phones late at night. Doctors recommend putting your gadgets away at least a half hour before bedtime. 


2.    Wash Your Sheets


AltaMed woman taking fresh sheets out of dryer and smelling them
 
    
Washing your sheets once per week has been proven to increase sleep quality, according the National Sleep Foundation. Over time, our beds collect dead skin, sweat, and other irritants, which can trigger our senses and keep us awake. Be sure to clean other bedding frequently as well. 


3.    Say No to Late Night Snacks


AltaMed two women on the couch eating popcorn watching TV

Eating shortly before going to bed will keep you up and may result in worse sleep quality. It’s best to stop eating at least two hours before you plan to go to hit the hay. If you are hungry, limit portion size and avoid snacks with added sugar. 


4.    Check the Thermostat


AltaMed man adjusting the thermostat

Ever notice that it can be more difficult to sleep during hot, summer months? This is because temperature has a profound impact in our ability to fall asleep, even more so than loud or distracting noises. Doctors recommend keeping your room at a comfortable 70 or so degrees for optimal sleeping conditions. 


5.    Stick to a Schedule


AltaMed woman laying in bed with clock on night stand

Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm, meaning we tend to wake up around sunrise and get tired after sunset. Studies have shown that people who do not follow consistent bedtimes report poorer sleep quality. Creating and following a set 7 or 8 hour sleep pattern will help you fall asleep faster. 


6.    Relax Your Mind


Altamed woman having breakfast

It can be tougher to fall asleep when our bodies experience stress. Rather than lay awake and worrying, try writing down a “to do” list of everything you need to accomplish the next day. Organizing your thoughts will help your mind and body relax. 


7.    Try Exercising - Just Not at Night


AltaMed couple running outdoors

Exercise is one of the best ways to prepare your body for a good night’s sleep. This is because physical activity can tire the body out, leading to an increase of hormones such as melatonin that helps cause sleepiness. One study showed that older adults who exercised regularly fell asleep 55% faster and slept for about 40 minutes longer. However, exercising too close to bedtime can keep your brain stimulated and overly-alert, so aim for morning or midday activity. 


8.    Cut Back on Caffeine


AltaMed cup of coffee

If you drink coffee every morning for a boost of energy, be sure to limit yourself to one or two cups. Caffeine stimulates the body’s nervous system for up to 12 hours, meaning a 3:00pm coffee break can lead to a restless night. If you need a boost of energy in the afternoon, try a healthy snack such as nuts or fruit instead. 


9.    Stay Out of Bed


AltaMed dad and daughter reading together

That’s right. Sleep experts actually recommend staying out of bed unless the purpose is to go to sleep or have sex. If you spend hours laying down and watching TV, using your phone, or reading, the brain begins to associate the bed with being awake, rather than getting rest. This can make it harder to fall asleep. 


10.    Breathe


AltaMed woman meditating

Even in the ideal sleep setting, it can still take time to settle our brains and fall asleep. Try this exercise, created by the Arizona Center for Integrated Medicine, to help your body relax:

  • Close your eyes and inhale slowly through your nose for 4 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. 

    Continue to do this until you fall asleep. 


Sleep On It


AltaMed woman sleeping in cozy bed

By following these suggestions, you’ll be on the path to a better night’s sleep! Remember, sleep deprivation can sometimes be a symptom of more serious medical conditions. If you or a loved one experiences continued insomnia without relief, talk to a doctor. Visit AltaMed.org to find a location, make an appointment, and learn more.