Itchy flakiness, achy windburn, and chapped lips – for those of us who have to contend with cold temps, winter is not a wonderland.
Skin may get slick and greasy during the balmy summer months, but the heat wave can also deliver a youthful glow. The chilly season, on the other hand, may not always be as pleasant as cozying up by the fireplace with a warm mug of hot cocoa.
“As much as we complain about the heat and humidity in the summer months, it’s likely that summer is when your skin just plain acts better,” explains Dr. Jessica Krant, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York. “Winter is the opposite. Acne tends to get worse in the fall after the sun goes away, and all those irritations return. It happens because of a combination of two factors: lack of sunlight and lack of moisture in the air.”
A simple solution for seasonal dryness may be as simple as slathering on lotion, but Krant also says it’s important to take note of how your complexion reacts to the cold before discovering the best defense.
“It’s especially bad because when the skin is dry, it’s not only flaky, itchy, and red, but the outer cells of the epidermis dry out,” she adds. “We care about this because when the cells get dryer and flatter, they lose plumpness, translucency, and the ability to transmit and reflect light. This means dullness. The outer layer of the skin also gets thinner and less full. This means wrinkles.”
Fortunately, there’s no need to suffer for months to come. Here's how to keep your skin soft, supple, and strong all season long:
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
Moisturizing may seem like a no-brainer for combating winter, but those with oilier skin tend to think they don’t need it because it may only create more gunk on your face. Not true. The right moisturizer for your skin type will help treat and heal parched, thirsty skin and prevent fine lines from becoming prominent. “The habit of applying a bland, fragrance-free moisturizer every single day before heading out into the cold will keep the skin calm, prevent inflammation, and allow it to handle everything you can throw at it,” says Dr. Krant. If your skin is oily, make sure the label says oil-free to avoid that unwanted slick feel.
Go Soft on Your Skincare Regimen
Your body may be shielded under layers of clothing, but those steamy hot showers beforehand can also be drying you out. “Take cool or lukewarm showers,” says Dr. Gary Goldenberg, assistant professor of dermatology at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Also, look for a moisturizing body wash instead of usual harsh soap. “I would use Cetaphil Restoraderm or Dove Deep Moisture Nourishing Body Wash,” says Goldenberg. “Apply a moisturizer right after a shower or bath, such as CeraVe Moisturizing Cream or L’Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Body Cream. For facial dry skin, I recommend CeraVe PM or Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream.”
Don’t Forget Sunscreen
Just because the days are shorter doesn’t mean you should skip the sunscreen. No matter what season it is, sun rays on exposed skin can still cause damage and promote early signs of aging. “In areas where snow is abundant, there can be significant reflection of the UV radiation off of the snow,” explains Dr. Julia Tzu, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine. “Because sunscreen can be drying to the skin, it is important to choose a sunscreen with a built-in moisturizer, or alternatively use a separate moisturizer underneath the sunscreen.”
Give Hands, Feet, and Lips Extra Love
“Hands have fewer oil glands and tend to get dryer with temperature changes and frequent washings,” says Dr. Marina Peredo, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Peredo advises to use a milder cleanser and avoid hand santizers as any alcohol-based product will dry you out. “Protect lips with lip balm and avoid licking them,” she warns. “Saliva is an irritant and will dry out the lips even more. And don’t forget looking for a product with broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunblock, especially when outdoor skiing.”
Invest in a Humidifer
Keeping your home nice and toasty is a must for winter, but the excess heat can also cause thirsty, flaky features. To ensure your body is getting proper hydration experts reccomend investing in a humidifier, which will produce more moisture within your environment. Plus, you can find a portable one that meets your space and budget requirements. “For those who are afraid of the bacteria that sometimes can accumulate in a humidifier, you can even get a little one that attaches to a mini water bottle,” suggests celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas.
Scrub Away Dull Features
Dull, aged features are usually caused by dead, flaky skin cells. If you can't head to the spa for some R&R time, consider giving yourself a similar treatment from the comfort of home. “I’d start by using an exfoliating paste all over my body in the morning, really scrubbing in a circular motion to slough off all the dead skin,” say celebrity makeup artist Sonia Kashuk. “Next, I’ll follow with a moisturizing wash to keep my skin clean without stripping it dry. Once I’m out of the shower I apply moisturizer, like a heavier body butter for winter or even layering it with body oil first for double the impact.” If using oil, try natural shea, almond, or jojoba for better absorbtion.
Prepare a Mask
“If you are sleeping in a super dry, hot environment, you are probably suffering from further dehydration and your body will have trouble doing any repairing,” warns Vargas. Pamper yourself in the evening with a homemade mask for soothing relief. And best of all, you can find all the ingredients in your fridge. “The yogurt in this hydrating mask is an anti-inflammatory with a lactic acid component,” she states. “Avocado is something I recommend for any skin type because it has lots of B vitamins and fatty acids, so it’s essential to keep the skin hydrated, along with honey.”
Joanna Vargas’ Winter Skin Mask Recipe
- ½ cup yogurt
- ½ avocado
- ¼ honey
Mix ingredients together and leave on skin for 20 minutes, then rinse.
Take A Fortified Bath
“One of the best winter skincare tips I can recommend is something I learned when my son had eczema as a baby,” says Vargas. “To this day it’s my family secret for healing dry, sensitive skin. Boil a large pot of water with one cup of chamomile tea leaves and one cup of rosemary. Cook these for 15 minutes. Then strain and add this water to your bath. Not only will you feel relaxed from your day, this potion will also sooth your skin like nothing else. Dry patches and redness will disappear overnight!”
Wake Up to Smoother Feet
If you’re suffering from painful cracked heels, consider trying a bedtime regimen that’s easy and affordable. “Apply Vaseline Petroleum Jelly all over the feet in a thick layer and then cover with socks before going to sleep,” says Dr. Stafford Broumand, associate clinical professor of plastic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center. “When you wake up and remove the socks in the morning, your feet will be soft and smooth. You can also do a similar treatment with your hands by covering them with cotton gloves overnight.