The dry winter air can have an adverse effect on skin or flare up common skin irritations like eczema. Pic: Supplied

In the wake of the first major cold front which hit South Africa recently - and with two more winter months ahead of us - a leader in the field of dermatology in South Africa shared tips on how to better take care of your skin over this period.

Cold wind during winter and the associated increased use of central heating tends to dry the skin, affecting everyone, but more especially people with dry skin and a predisposition to irritations like eczema icthyosis (dry skin) and psoriasis.

Typically at this time of year the skin may feel taut, and the skin feels dry with frequent cracking of the lips.

Prof. Ncoza Dlova - president of the African Women's Dermatology Society and Head of Dermatology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal - advised that this is the time of year when one should use more ointments and creams over lotions and gels.

She said: “Cold air tightens the blood vessels that supply the oil glands and skin’s pores and reduces blood circulation as a result of vasoconstriction. This reduces the naturally occurring oil known as sebum which acts as a protective layer and traps moisture next to the skin.With humidity in the air lower during winter, the cumulative effect is that skin starts to dry out. This can aggravate existing conditions that already make the skin prone to cracking and flaking,” she said.

Here are some tips Dlova has offered to get your skin through the winter months:

1. Choose ointments, creams and barrier creams rather than lotions and gels which may be more suitable for summer in those with normal skin.

2.Try and avoid using soaps as these tend to dry the skin. Bath oils or syndets, or cleansing milks are recommended. However, bath oils should be used with caution in the elderly as they may slip in the bath.

3.People with the mentioned skin conditions should use ointments. These should contain urea, lactic acid, glycerine, mineral oil, sorbitol, white soft paraffin (petrolatum), hyaluronic acid, ceramides, octyl dodecanol, hexyl decanol and oleyl alcohol. Other additives to moisturisers include alpha-hydroxy (also a humectant) and beta-hydroxy acids.

4. Use these creams and ointments regularly in winter and every four hours, for those with underlying skin conditions

[email protected]