Winter Skin Survival Guide
Slightly adjust your skin-care routine and daily habits to ward off dryness. Cleanse your face just once a day―at night, to remove dirt, impurities, and makeup―and simply rinse it in the morning. Alcohol dries the skin, so during the cold months, shelve products with high levels of alcohol, such as facial toners and astringents. Exfoliate your face and body once a week with a gentle scrub or a washcloth.
Take lukewarm showers and limit them to five minutes or less. “Just as you use hot water, soap, and scrubbing to get grease out of dishes, you can wind up removing natural oils from your skin by using these things during bathing,” says Barbara R. Reed, a dermatologist in Denver. If you prefer baths, add colloidal oatmeal, which is moisturizing, soothing, and particularly helpful if your skin is chapped.
Replenish the moisture that you remove from your skin by washing. Drinking plenty of water isn’t enough by itself. “If you are well hydrated, the skin will be healthier, but it does not make a difference to the outer layers of the skin,” says dermatologist Doris J. Day. “You still need to use a moisturizer on the surface.” During the colder months, moisturize your body at least twice a day―immediately after showering and before bedtime. “The drier your skin, the thicker the lotion should be,” Reed says. “If you are very dry, you should be dipping into a jar, not squirting lotion out of a bottle.”
Put on thin white cotton gloves over moisturized hands. It’s been said before, but this really works to heal very dry skin. Dampen your hands, apply a rich ointment, and then wear the gloves for a few hours. For rough patches, such as on elbows, lock in moisture with petroleum jelly.
Try a humidifier in your bedroom if you don’t have one in your central heating system. But be vigilant about keeping it clean: “Different molds, fungi, and bacteria can grow in a humidifier,” says Kelly M. Cordoro, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. To prevent yours from becoming a germ haven, change the water daily and clean it every three days.
Cover up before heading outside. Leather gloves keep hands from chapping (the leather provides a better barrier to moisture evaporation than cotton), and wax-based products like lipstick and lip balm provide moisture and wind protection. Just as you shouldn’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water, don’t wait until your skin and lips are dry before moisturizing.