Clinical pharmacist Stephen Riley examines what role community pharmacy can play in helping people maintain healthy skin during the cold winter months…
The main thing about winter skincare is taking steps to prevent dry skin as this is a key issue during this season and can exacerbate existing skin conditions.
The drop in temperature, reduction in humidity and increased wind can strip the top layer of skin of its natural oils. This can lead to dry, itchy, red and inflamed skin.
It is also important to note that home comforts such as central heating, long hot baths, woollen clothes and soaps/bubble baths can exacerbate dry skin conditions.
Pharmacists’ advice for customers
The key elements are to advise people on the effects of the winter weather and to wrap up when out in the cold, using gloves (cotton if possible as opposed to wool), avoiding wet gloves and socks. Don’t warm up too quickly i.e. in a super hot bath or placing hands in hot water.
Moisturise, Moisturise, Moisturise. Using products such as moisturisers, emollients and Bio-Oil. This will help nourish skin and prevent drying. Particularly on the hands and feet.
Be aware of impact of home comforts and take steps to prevent skin drying out. Central heating can dry rooms, so use a humidifier, long hot baths and showers can strip skin of oils, so try warm baths/showers and moisturise after.
Soaps and bubble baths can strip skin of oils too, so use simple soaps or ones with moisturiser. Also avoid rubbing skin roughly with towels to dry, pat instead.
Diet is important, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and have caffeine/alcohol in moderation (they are diuretics and dry the skin).
It is important to remember winter sun can have an impact too, especially the glare, so using a broad spectrum sunscreen on exposed areas (e.g. hands and face) is important even in winter.
Pharmacists need to highlight to people that winter weather can exacerbate existing conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Therefore, alongside moisturising and treating dry skin elements patients may need support and treatment for flare-ups including the likes of steroid creams.
Another where patients require additional advice in general is with scars and stretch marks. This is an area where patients have expressed a need for more information. Especially around the scarring process, how to treat and achieve a good scar and the effective use of products such as Bio-Oil.’
Pharmacy staff helping people treat winter skin conditions
Staff can support customers by giving the self-care advice and prevention guidance as outlined above and by identifying patients with underlying skin conditions which may be exacerbated.
Pharmacists should ensure counter staff understand and can deliver key messages. They should also understand key products to moisturise the skin.
Building a strong winter skin category in the pharmacy
Have a clear section linked and signposted as skincare for the winter. This can include key products such as emollients, creams, Bio-Oil, simple soaps, bath oils and soaps or shower products that include moisturisers.
Many of these products are GSL so can be put out for self-selection. This can give a clear area to direct people to and support to choose most suitable products.
Bio-Oil has recently teamed up with specialist skin care professionals and produced a number of materials to support healthcare professionals to advise and treat patients effectively.
There is a healthcare professional support module which covers the scarring process and has links to psychological impacts and effective treatments. It also counts as CPD. They have also produced guides to support patient consultations SCAR to remind healthcare professionals of key points and CARE as an aide-memoire for patients.
To help pharmacists improve their knowledge Bio-Oil has created a free eLearning resource. To access the training and receive a certificate upon completion visit www.bio-oilprofessional.co.uk/primary-care-training
This article was written on behalf of Bio-Oil.