A resident medical doctor at the Rabito Clinic and Skin Care Hospital in Accra, Dr Kofi Ansah Brifo, has recommended the use of moisturisers, drinking lots of water and use of lip balms as a way of protecting the skin from the harmattan.
He explained that moisturising helps introduce minerals and vitamins to the skin to keep it healthy, help repair itself at a healthy rate, and prevent itchiness.
Dr Brifo was speaking in Accra to The Mirror on how to maintain a healthy skin during the harmattan.
He said a dehydrated or dry skin could cause cracks on the skin’s surface, making it susceptible to infections since microorganisms could easily enter the skin through the cracks.
“ The elasticity and defence mechanisms of the skin also becomes limited. Facially, the dust and dryness can clog pores, the results; acne, black spots and whiteheads due to the production of sebum”, he added.
Dr Brifo described the skin as the largest organ of the body that offers three layers (epidermis, demis and subcutaneous) of protection from microbes, harsh environment, U.V radiation and infections, among others.
He said the skin could tell how healthy or ill a person is through changes in colour, texture and outlook.
Dr Brifo explained that it was imperative to give the skin utmost care to prevent harmful factors from affecting our internal organs.
Different skin types, he said, reacted to the harmattan differently.
Dr Kofi Ansah Brifo
“ Whereas dry skin becomes drier, and more prone to cracks , oily and combination skin can escape by a slight margin. Harmattan also causes what is called pruritus, thus itching associated with dry skin and cheilitis, thus cracked or chapped lips, he said.
The doctor said the skin glands began to lose its power and fighting ability with age as such, the elderly might suffer during this dry and dusty weather.
He advised that if a child suffered chronic atopic dermatitis or eczema, a skin condition characterised by dry, itchy and sometimes inflamed skin that had no cure, their condition might worsen.
“The dust associated with harmattan also exacerbates the conditions of asthmatic patients and persons on certain medications such as acnotac, a medication that causes skin and lips dryness. This season can also be a problem for diabetic patients. Due to the low blood sugar associated with diabetes, a diabetic loses significant sensation on the skin. This means, they may not be able to immediately detect even the minutest of infection or injury when attacked by certain microbes, especially during this season”, he said, adding that when not treated or poorly treated, that could develop into a severe case of infection such as cellulitis.
He described cellulitis as a common bacterial skin infection that affected the deepest layer of the skin (subcutaneous) causing redness, swelling, and pain in the infected area of the skin. If untreated, it could spread and cause serious health problems.
Dr Brifo said the use of moisturisers containing at least Sun Block Factor 30 (spf30), a mineral that protects the skin from sun damage were essential during this period.
He recommended local products like authentic shea butter as a very good option saying that a trick to improve moisture was to apply lotions and moisturisers immediately after taking a shower while still wet.