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Eye and skin care in winter

03/06/04 12:00AM By Mary Barrosse-Schwartz
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(Host) While we're waiting for spring truly to arrive, commentator Mary Barrosse-Schwartz has some tips for mitigating the effects of winter on your body.

(Barrosse-Schwartz) By this time in our Vermont winter, we are all feeling the effects of weeks of brutal cold and dryness. Maybe you are having recurrent dreams of the southern tropics, with balmy breezes. Unfortunately, if you put any stock in the groundhog, we still have some winter left to go.

For those of us over forty, cold winter winds and low humidity outdoors, plus drying indoor heat can really takes it's toll on our skin and eyes. That's because skin glands are starting to slow down production of rejuvenating oils. I suppose that's also why there's a several billion dollar skin care industry in this country. But you don't have to plunk down big money for skin salves and balms. You can take simple steps - wise at any age - to repair your skin and eyes from winter's ravages.

Internist Dr. Ian MacLean Smith of the University of Iowa advises avoiding the drying effects of too-hot water, showering too often, and overheating your home. He recommends that you use a mild non-scented soap and rinse well. He says there is definitely something to the old advice of getting your beauty sleep, and adds to that, the recommendation to drink plenty of liquids, and exercise regularly.

Stick to bland moisturizers, without alcohol, scent, or coloring. Keep a bottle by each sink in your home for quick application after each hand
washing. For outdoor sports use sun screen with an spf of 15 any higher is actually a waste, since it wears off long before the added protection can be realized. Reapply every hour and a half to two hours to ensure continued protection.

As we age, dry eyes can be a problem any time, but they can be especially aggravated by winter's extremes. Some medications can cause dry eyes too. We can moisturize parched skin, but what do we do to soothe and care for dry, sore eyes? Humidifiers can help recharge the indoor air with needed moisture. Saline eye mists and eye drops can do the trick too. If necessary, punctal plugs can be inserted by an eye doctor to block tear drainage.

Some people stop wearing sunglasses outdoors in winter, thinking that less sun or warmth means the protection isn't necessary. But sunglasses are just as important on a sunny day with snow on the ground, as they are in the summer. Snow blindness is a serious form of sunburn to the eyes. With the sun lower on the horizon, exposure is actually greater than in the summer. And sunglasses can also protect the eyes from drying wind and blowing snow.

In East Dorset, this is Mary Barrosse Schwartz.

Mary Barosse-Schwartz is a mother, a freelance writer and an artist.
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