Vivien Williams: The falling temperatures of winter can be stressful for the largest organ of our body — our skin. Mayo Clinic experts offer some timely reminders for staying comfortable and healthy. Here's Dennis Douda for Medical Edge.

Dennis Douda: Steamy plumes of breath in the crisp, cold air provides a visible clue that winter sucks the moisture right out of us. Wearing hats, scarves, and gloves is a good first line of defense, but can't change the fact cold air is dry air. Mayo Clinic dermatologist Dr. Dawn Davis says ignoring dry skin can lead to bigger health risks. And now's the season many people realize they have dermatitis.

Dawn Davis, M.D.: And that is a very troublesome disease where you're very itchy and your skin is broken down and dry. And then it leads you to scratch. And when you scratch, you break the barrier open further. And of course, dry, cracked skin is at risk for infection.

Dennis Douda: Dr. Davis says the most obvious solution is to moisturize. She says you do not have to buy expensive brands of lotions to get good results. Just use them regularly.

Dawn Davis, M.D.: As a dermatologist, we like to recommend that you avoid moisturizers that have strong perfumes or glitter or abrasives in them. Try to use a hypoallergenic lotion. If you feel that you need something that penetrates deeper, you can have something that's more of an ointment form that seals the skin.

Dennis Douda: Frequent handwashing, especially with hot water, can dehydrate skin. So after washing, gently pat hands dry, reapplying the moisturizer. Dr. Davis says no matter how cold it is, ultraviolet rays are still a threat during winter, so apply your sunscreen daily. Because our skin makes less vitamin D in the winter, she often recommends supplements. Humidifiers in the home help combat dryness. And since your scalp is part of your skin, many people notice increased dandruff during winter. Try rotating several brands of dandruff shampoo for best results.

Dawn Davis, M.D.: Dandruff will become immune to monotherapy, something that we call in medicine, tachyphylaxis. So you'll notice, if you start a medical shampoo for dandruff, that it will work very well for the first several weeks, and then most people plateau or find that it doesn't work at all anymore.

Dennis Douda: Finally, frostbite is one of the most dangerous threats our skin faces in winter. Dr. Davis says besides covering exposed skin and avoiding extreme cold, keep your gloves and socks dry. And of course, always seek immediate medical attention if necessary.

Vivien Williams: Dr. Davis has one more suggestion for beating dandruff. Remember that medicated shampoos need to be worked into the scalp and left on for several minutes to do the most good. For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.

Jan. 02, 2014