As temperatures chill out, your skin may freak out. Cooler, dryer air sucks moisture from your skin, causing cracks in its outermost layer.
“This is called ‘barrier dysfunction,’ and your skin starts to break down and flake off,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.
The solution, he says, starts in your shower. That’s where you have the opportunity to either repair or destroy your skin’s surface. So follow these tips to make sure the only flakes you’ll see this winter are the ones falling from the sky.
1. Cut Your Shower Time
“Long, hot showers strip your skin of essential oils and lead to dryness,” Zeichner said.
"Shorten your shower to no more than 10 minutes and use lukewarm water only.”
2. Skip Soap
“Soap has a high pH that can disrupt the outer layer of your skin and cause inflammation and dryness,” Zeichner said.
Suds up with soap-free, soothing body wash that locks in moisture, such as NIVEA Men Sensitive or Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Wash
3. Use Your Hands
It’s more gentle than scrubbing with a washcloth or loofah—their abrasive textures can break down the surface of your skin even more. Plus, they tend to harbor bacteria.
The surface of your skin is already impaired if it’s flaking, and these tools can make it worse, leaving you more susceptible to infections.
“If you insist on using a washcloth, just be sure to use a clean one with each shower,” Zeichner said. And be gentle, using less force on your skin so the washcloth won’t be as abrasive.
4. Pat. Don’t Rub
When you step out of the shower, avoid going gangbusters on your skin with a towel.
“Many people think that they’re sloughing away any remaining flakes, but the friction of the towel fibers against your skin can actually worsen damage to the surface,” Zeichner said.
Read: More flakes afterwards. Instead, use a patting motion to sop up any remaining droplets.
5. Apply The Right Stuff
Moisturize when your skin is still damp—every single time you step out of the shower. This helps the moisturizer penetrate your skin, to repair the damage and help prevent further flaking.
“A lot of guys skip this step because they don’t like how heavy creams feel, but with advancements in formulations, the newer products are a lot lighter and absorb more quickly than they used to,” Zeichner said. (Try the 6 Best Moisturizers for All Your Parts.)
Look for products that contain a type of fatty acid called ceramides. Think of it like this: If your skin is a brick wall, ceramides are the mortar and your skin cells are the bricks.
“Ceramides help fill cracks in the outermost layer of your skin, kind of like spackle,” Zeichner said.
And no breaks in the skin means less flaking. CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion and Aveeno Skin Relief Moisture Repair Cream have what you need.