Winter Skin Care: Dermatologist Ginette Hinds, M.D.

ginette hindsWinter weather takes a toll on our skin, and Ginette A. Hinds, M.D.,  an assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Ethnic Skin Program, shares expert advice on how to protect it against the harsh elements and take good care of it.

Dr. Hinds graduated from Barry University (B.S.) and Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons (M.D.) and completed her dermatology residency at Yale School of Medicine.  Her clinical interests are ethnic skin, hidradenitis suppurativa and sarcoidosis.

Read her answers to some frequently asked questions, and feel free to ask your own.

What happens to the skin in inclement weather, e.g. cold weather? How does this differ for summer care?

During the winter, the lower humidity promotes increased water loss from our skin via evaporation. As a result, our skin is drier and more prone to developing itching and eczema. Whereas in the summer our skin care regimen should focus on sun protection, in the winter the focus should be on combating dry skin.

What’s the most effective thing you can do to protect your skin against the cold and inclement weather?

The most important thing you can do to protect your skin against cold weather is to provide the skin with as much moisture as possible to combat the dry cold air of winter. Start by using gentle soaps or body washes that do not strip your skin of its natural oils.

Moisturize your skin at least once daily, especially after showering. In the winter, it is better to use moisturizers that contain more oil than water, e.g. creams are better than lotions, and ointments such as petroleum jelly are even better than creams. For people who do not like the greasy feel of ointments, mixing an ointment and a cream can help increase the potency of your moisturizer while decreasing that greasy feeling. Applying moisturizers to damp skin increases their effectiveness. Another tip for maintaining the moisture in your skin is to use a humidifier in your bedroom. This increases the moisture in the air of your bedroom, which decreases the evaporation of water from your skin during sleep.

I have no commercial interest in these items, but examples of gentle soaps are Dove, Olay and Dr. Bronner's.

Is there any difference in skin care for people of color/ethnic skin?

In general, skin of color thrives when it is well-moisturized. Studies have shown that skin of color tends to be dry and it is easier to see this dry skin on certain parts of the body (ashy-ness). It is therefore imperative for people with skin of color to pay special attention to keeping their skin moisturized, especially in the winter.

Are there any natural remedies for healthy skin?

Aloe vera has been used to soothe irritated skin and minor burns for centuries. Also, honey and brown sugar are excellent humectants (meaning they draw moisture into the skin) and can be used in homemade face scrubs that cleanse and moisturize the skin. An example of a simple homemade face scrub is six tablespoons of olive oil plus two tablespoons of organic cane sugar.

What’s the 5 worst things for your skin?

  1. Excessive sun exposure / tanning beds.  Contrary to popular belief, excessive sun exposure can harm brown skin. Although people with skin of color are at lower risk for skin cancer, it can still occur. Additionally, excessive sun exposure causes premature aging of the skin via the development of fine lines and wrinkles and uneven pigmentation.
  2. Smoking. Protecting the appearance of your skin is another good reason to stop smoking. Not only does smoking increase your risk of skin cancer, it dramatically ages the skin especially in the area around the mouth and eyes. The repetitive actions of pursing the lips around the cigarette and squinting against the smoke promotes the development of deep wrinkles in these areas of the face. In addition, after years of smoking, the skin becomes dry and leathery and the glow of healthy brown skin is lost.
  3. Ignoring new or changing spots on your skin. New or changing moles or other lesions on your skin should prompt a visit to your primary care doctor or your dermatologist for a skin cancer screening.
  4. Using harsh soaps that cause excessive dryness of the skin.
  5. Showering in very hot water. This contributes to dry skin and winter itch.

What’s the 5 best ways to get healthier, younger looking skin?

  1. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
  2. Sun protection. Wear sunscreen on your face and neck daily. A daily moisturizer with SPF 15 or 30 is sufficient for protecting against the average amount of sun exposure. However, if you expect to get more sun exposure than usual, e.g. on a beach vacation, use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or 45 and reapply every 2 hours if the sun exposure is continuous. Hats are also an excellent way to protect the skin on your face and scalp from excessive sun exposure.
  3. Drink 8 to 12 cups of water daily.
  4. A healthy diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish and low in fat and sugar promotes your overall health, which certainly shows on your skin.
  5. Exercise. Exercise also promotes overall health and increases blood flow to the skin, promotes excretion of impurities via sweat, and gives your skin a healthy glow.

What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about skin and skin care?

Although natural pigmentation is protective, several different types of skin cancer can occur in African Americans, Hispanics and Asians.




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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }


Virginia Palmer January 23, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Thank you. Very informative!


Janet January 23, 2014 at 11:30 am

What are some common scalp conditions, particularly for women of color, and how should we protect our hair from them?


Ginette Hinds MD January 23, 2014 at 12:38 pm

A very common scalp condition in women of color is alopecia. Alopecia is a broad term for hair loss. There are many different types of alopecia, but there is one type that is more common in African American women. It is called Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA) and it is characterized by hair loss that starts on the crown of the scalp and slowly expands over time. Some women describe a sensation of itching, scalp tenderness, or scalp tightness at the crown of the scalp even before the hair loss begins.
We still don't know the cause of CCCA, but I believe that any hair styling practice that causes scalp irritation can make CCCA worse. Examples include relaxer burns, tight braids or weaves, and glued in weaves. Avoiding these practices may decrease your risk of developing CCCA and other types of alopecia, and will promote the overall health of your scalp and hair.
Dr. Hinds


Kim James January 23, 2014 at 9:17 am

I have suffered with eczema for years. I have tried a lot of remedies. I totally agree....petroleum jelly works best for me.


Emily Boss January 23, 2014 at 8:57 am

This article was very practical and I learned a LOT. I am going to go home and mix some ointment with my moisturizer.


Ginette Hinds MD January 23, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Thank you for your comment Emily. Start with a 50-50 mixture of your favorite moisturizing lotion and petroleum jelly. Then adjust the amount of ointment until you are satisfied with the 'feel' of the mixture on your skin.


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