For some, it’s a fashion debate: Should you go barelegged or wear tights in the winter?
Whatever side you stand on, one thing is for certain: When the temperatures drop, sometimes you don’t have much of a choice. But, besides a potential fashion faux pas, there might be one lesser-known thing your tights are doing—trapping dead skin cells to your skin.
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Sounds pretty gross, but Annet King, director of global education at The International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica, says it makes sense—and you’ve probably noticed it when you’ve taken your tights off (in the form of skin sticking to them, which can appear almost like a powder). “The synthetic fabrics can trap sweat and sebum. Sweat can further irritate sensitive skin, especially when it gets trapped under your hosiery. This causes itchiness and is problem for people with eczema,” she says.
“Adding tights to the equation without properly moisturizing your skin can make it more irritated and itchy,” explains Alpharetta, GA, dermatologist Chynna Steele, MD. “Anytime you add a tightly fitting garment and potentially friction (tights rubbing against the skin and maybe also rubbing against overlying pants), you get irritation. The best treatment is to use a good, thick moisturizer morning and evening.”
A good rule of thumb is to also look at the fabric used. “Some nylons and stockings with mixed blends have latex, which can cause allergic reactions,” King says. Also, pay attention to what you are also washing your hosiery with if you have sensitive skin. “Detergents that are low-chemical and fragrance-free are better.”
And, if you already have the dreaded really-dry skin on your legs, King says another option is to exfoliate. “Exfoliate or dry body brush daily and use a good fragrance-free moisturizer. Avoid very hot baths, and high-foaming artificially fragranced products, as these will strip lipids and irritate your skin, and use a gentle body wash or cream-based shower lotion/gel instead. You can also add a few pumps of an aromatherapy and plant blend oil to your body lotion or warm bath to pump up the emollients and hydration.” King also suggests looking for bath salts (she likes Hydro-Active Mineral Salts), which can help exfoliate if you are lazy. “You can lie in the bath and dead cells will be eliminated,” she says.
But before you go giving tights a totally bad name, consider this: “Wearing tights can actually be helpful for some conditions like preventing leg veins,” explains Dr. Steele. “A preventive measure for leg veins is wearing compression tights/hose, so tights that one wears for fashion will help keep external pressure on the veins and prevent them from ‘popping’ open and becoming spider veins.”
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