When that chill settles into the air, you may feel it settles into your skin as well. Cold-weather months can bring on a host of winter skin problems: itchiness, chapped hands, roughened feet and facial tightness, to name a few.
Blame that dry winter skin on the air, says Dr. Jeannette Graf, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “Winter weather generally has a much lower relative humidity, so the amount of moisture your skin would normally get from the atmosphere is smaller,” she says. The cold air also makes your veins constrict — another factor adding to the dryness.
“Keeping the skin moisturized is super-important for health reasons,” says Graf. “Our skin helps regulate our body temperature and protects us from pathogens and infections.” Try these tips to banish dry winter skin and keep your bod beautiful and healthy even in the most frigid temps.
1. Keep it cool.
Hot showers may feel luxurious, but they rob your skin of moisture-retaining lipids. “People actually don’t need to shower as often in the winter,” says Graf. “If you have dry skin, try showering only three times a week. Use lukewarm water, and get in and out quickly.”
Go for a body wash, which is less drying than bar soap. And apply moisturizer immediately after you get out of the tub (within three minutes), while your skin is still a little damp.
2. Get rich quick.
Most women can use an extra-strength body lotion to combat dry winter skin, says Graf. Look for moisture-rich ingredients like lactic acid, urea, glycerin, petrolatum and hyaluronic acid. If an extra-strength lotion feels too heavy for you, go with a milder formulation. Moisturize morning and night for maximum effect. Same goes for your face: Choose a heavier moisturizer during the day, and a night cream for bedtime.
3. Keep the air moist.
To counteract the dry air, Graf recommends putting a humidifier in your bedroom.
4. Be sun-smart.
Even when it’s not beach weather, your skin still needs protection from the sun’s rays. For exposed areas like the face and hands, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Depending on your needs, you can either choose a face cream with sunscreen included or apply a heavier moisturizer over a layer of sunblock.
5. Pamper your feet.
“Feet tend to get really thickened and dry in the winter, so you may need to go a step further than just applying cream,” says Graf. Give your feet a winter treat at night by first soaking them in Epsom salt, then using a foot scrub. Rub in a thick moisturizer and put on socks just before going to bed — you’ll wake up with noticeably softer feet.
6. Protect your hands.
To prevent dryness and chapping, your hands need to be kept moisturized. “Carry a little bottle of hand cream with you wherever you go — in your purse, glove compartment and desk drawer,” says Graf. The other secret to soft hands: Cover them up as much as possible. “For any household chore — washing dishes, dusting — wear powder-free latex gloves so you won’t be exposed to irritants,” suggests Graf.