When your skin takes the brunt of winter’s wrath, make sure you protect it from drying and cracking. Staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (found in foods like salmon) does help a bit, but there will always be areas of your skin that need some extra love and attention when the temperature dips.
“Your skin is your body’s barrier to the cold and wind, and it takes a beating in the winter months,” says Dr. Gervaise Gerstner, a New York City-based dermatologist. “The combination of the cold outside and the heat inside is a tough combination.”
Here’s how to give your dry skin a moisturizing boost in these key trouble spots:
The skin on your lips is thinner than other places on your body, which is why your pout is prone to painful chapping and cracking. “When your skin is compromised, as your lips are in winter, you might be more likely to get cold sores,” says Gerstner. “And badly cracked lips can also get infected.”
The remedy? Don’t lick your lips — that just makes the problem worse. And be sure to maintain a healthy barrier between your lips and the cold. Try rubbing a dab of a petrolatum-containing moisturizer, such as Aquaphor, over your lips when they feel dry. It’s practically magic.
All that diligent washing and sanitizing can leave your hands red and flaky and your cuticles cracked. “The trick for hands is to put gloves on as soon as you go outside in the cold,” says Gerstner. Cotton gloves are preferable to wool or cashmere, since they won’t irritate already sensitive skin. And be sure to use a thick hand cream throughout the day and before you go to sleep.
In winter, the skin on your face is the most exposed to not only the cold and wind, but also the sun’s UVA/UVB rays. So don’t let up on sun protection just because you’re not basking on the beach. Use a daily broad-spectrum SPF 15 moisturizing sunscreen every day on your face.
For washing, make sure your daily cleanser is creamy, not drying. If you’re prone to rosacea or eczema, winter is not the time to use retinol-based products on your face, since they may exacerbate redness.
In the summer, many women pamper their feet with pedis. But in cold weather, we tend to shove them in boots and forget about them. Bad idea. Your feet need just as much attention now — especially the heels, which are more prone to calluses in dry winter air. But your normal lotion won’t penetrate the calluses. Gerstner suggests a cream containing urea (available from your dermatologist), which will melt the rough skin and moisturize your heels. Also key: keeping your feet dry and wearing insulated boots.
The dry air takes its toll all over your body: Some people find that their dandruff gets worse in the winter. A simple over-the-counter dandruff shampoo used about three times a week will help. Rub it into your wet hair and let it sit for 10 to 15 seconds before rinsing; a second lathering is also recommended. Also resist the urge to take extremely long, hot baths and showers, which will make matters worse for your scalp and the rest of your skin.