Tips to keep your skin moist this winter

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Winter is poised to take its toll on your skin. Cold weather saps essential oils from the body, leaving skin dry and scaly and causing what dermatologists call winter itch, a common malady among seniors. If you think applying moisturizer only to your face and hands will defeat winter itch, you're merely scratching the surface.

"Your whole body, head to toe, should be moisturized," says Dr. Robyn Gmyrek, director of the Skin and Laser Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

Keeping skin moist and supple gets harder as we age. And those taking cholesterol-lowering drugs face a bigger hurdle, Gmyrek says. The drugs not only lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood, they also lower the amount of cholesterol in the skin. Cholesterol may be bad for the heart, but it helps keep skin from drying out.

Even those who moisturize typically treat only the parts of the body exposed to the elements. But Gmyrek says legs and back are also prone to winter itch, although some elderly people may have difficulty moisturizing those areas. "They can't always bend forward and moisturize their legs. They can't always get the back," she says. Gmyrek recommends buying a back-moisturizer applicator. These devices resemble back scratchers with pads.

Moisturizers fall into three broad categories: lotions, creams and ointments. Because many lotions come in containers with pump tops and are not greasy, they are the easiest to use and most popular. But they also are not as effective. "When you compare them to ointments and creams, they will not moisturize as well," Gmyrek says. She recommends an oily moisturizer with petrolatum -- yes, that includes humble, inexpensive petroleum jelly.

Gmyrek recommends moisturizing after a bath or shower. "Pat the skin dry, and then apply the cream moisturizer or ointment moisturizer in a small amount over your entire body and rub it in," she says. "Give it a minute to soak in, and you can dab off any residual that's there so you don't feel greasy."

As for soap, Gmyrek advises using it sparingly because it dries the skin. This is true even for soaps that have moisturizers as an ingredient.

"Unless you're mud wrestling, you don't need to be lathering up like a commercial," she says. "Just by definition, if you're using a soap of any kind, you are stripping oil from your skin."

Knitting clubs will keep you in stitches

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The Hanukkah gifts have been given,and the Christmas presents are ready to be wrapped. Time to get started creating next year's holiday gifts.

Do-it-yourselfers armed with knitting needles and crochet hooks can attend clubs and workshops at many local libraries. Among the numerous libraries hosting knitting and crocheting clubs are John Jermain Library in Sag Harbor, North Babylon Library, Deer Park Library, Bellmore Memorial Library and Riverhead Free Library. Most are weekly or biweekly get-togethers where knitters work on their own projects while exchanging ideas with group members. If your library doesn't sponsor a club, a reference librarian should be able to find one nearby that will welcome you.

Most clubs are in hiatus until the new year, but if you want to get some knitting action next week, bring yarn and needles and head to Deer Park Library, which has a session Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m.

James Bond films had plenty of cars, bad cars

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The 50 years of James Bond films are notable for Bond girls and Bond cars. The women were all beautiful. The cars, not always. Car experts Edmunds compiled the five worst Bond cars of all time:

AMC Matador Appearing in "The Man With the Golden Gun" (1974), the car was "wretched, butt-ugly awfulness."

AMC Hornet This "odd vehicle choice" appeared in "The Man With the Golden Gun," because it was the only car deemed capable of performing a stunt.

Citroen 2CV Edmunds calls the French compact in "For Your Eyes Only" (1981) a "horrific car."

Aston Martin Vanquish A classic Bond car, but the version in "Die Another Day" (2002) was an "over-the-top caricature."

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Ford LTD Bond tools around in a staid family car in "A View to a Kill" (1985). The verdict: "Just horrible."

Free flu vaccinations are worth a shot

Flu season is in full force, and the word from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is it started earlier and could be worse than in recent years. If you're 65 or older, the CDC recommends you get a flu shot because seniors who get sick are far more likely to suffer severe complications than the rest of the population. The government notes that people 65 and older account for 95 percent of all deaths caused by the flu.

Flu vaccine this year is plentiful and readily available. For those with Medicare and most private health-

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insurance plans, there is usually no out-of-pocket cost for a basic flu shot.

For information on how to lower your chances of getting the flu or what to do if you get sick, go to You can find a site near you that is dispensing flu shots with the website's Flu Vaccine Finder.

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