Winter weather can be tough on your skin. When the outside air is cold and dry, it sucks the moisture out of your skin, leaving it itchy, chapped and cracked. The indoor heat is often just as dry, which offers skin no relief.
What can you do to fight the harsh effects of winter on your skin to keep your youthful, smooth skin all year? Here are five small changes you can make to your daily skin care routine that will have a big impact on your skin:
#1: Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
When skin gets dry, the best thing you can do to restore smoothness is to rehydrate your skin with a good daily moisturizer — but choose your moisturizer carefully! What works for your skin in the summer may not be strong enough to protect skin during dry winter conditions. A nourishing moisturizer with natural ingredients is good for your skin and can help it feel smoother.
Read ingredients and choose quality, oil-based products over water-based solutions, because they will help your skin retain moisture. Extremely dry skin may also respond well to petroleum-based products such as Vaseline and Aquaphor, which last longer than crème moisturizers and can keep water from evaporating from your skin.
“A good moisturizer serves as a barrier, holding moisture in and helping to smooth the skin’s outer layers,” says Dr. Deborah Ohlhausen, a board-certified dermatologist at U.S. Dermatology Partners Shoal Creek in Liberty, Missouri. “Showering in lukewarm water instead of hot water, bathing for shorter periods of time and using mild soaps and moisturizing immediately afterward can also help skin look and feel smoother and healthier.”
#2: Drink lots and lots of water.
Moisturizers help add moisture to dry skin from the outside, but staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and eating fruits and vegetables high in water is also a great way to keep skin hydrated from within.
Your skin, which naturally contains a lot of water, serves as a protective barrier to prevent fluid loss. By drinking more water, you can actually help your skin look smoother overall. Drinking water is also great for your health in general and helps with digestion, absorption and circulation.
#3: Protect your skin from the elements.
Wearing protective winter clothing such as gloves and scarves can also help to protect your skin from harsh winter temperatures and conditions. Also, don’t forget the sunscreen! Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean the sun is any less damaging than during hot summer months. You should wear sunscreen every day of the year.
It is especially important to take care of your hands in cold, dry weather. The skin on your hands is thinner than skin elsewhere on the body and it has fewer oil glands, which makes it even more difficult to keep hands adequately hydrated in cold, dry weather. Wear gloves to protect your hands when you go outside. Also avoid wearing wet gloves, which can cause itching and irritation.
#4: Add moisture back into the air.
During the winter, the outside air is dry and cold. The air inside may be warmer, but don’t be fooled. It’s also dry. Your skin just can’t win!
Central heating systems keep the air dry. Installing a humidifier in your home — especially in your bedroom while you sleep — can help to replace some of the lost moisture back into the air to keep your skin from drying out.
#5: Exfoliate dead skin cells.
Winter brings dry, flaky skin, which can cause a build-up of dead cells on your skin’s surface. When there are too many dead skin cells, moisture and moisturizers can’t get in.
“It’s important to slough off dead skin cells during the winter with a gentle exfoliating mask,” says Dr. Ohlhausen. “You can use it on your face and even your hands — and then moisturize right after — to help them look smoother and feel better overall.”
An exfoliating body wash can also help to remove dead skin cells so that your moisturizer can get deeper into your skin and do its job.
Enlist the Help of a Professional
A dermatologist can help you create a winter skin care routine that is ideal for your age and skin type.
With all of the skin care products on the market today, a dermatologist can help provide some guidance on which is the best fit for you this winter. Products like face peels, clay-based masks and harsh toners can actually strip moisture from your skin and make dry skin even worse.
“Switching up your skin care regimen to include hydrating creamy cleansers and heavier facial moisturizers in the winter will help prevent irritation,” says Dr. Ohlhausen. "If your skin is combination, a small amount of foaming cleanser in the t-zone followed by hydrating cleanser everywhere works well to prevent dryness."
In addition to dry skin, other skin conditions such as eczema also worsen in the winter. If your dry, irritated skin gets worse despite changing up your products and increasing daily moisturizing, give your dermatologist a call. It might be something more serious than dry skin that requires a prescription-strength lotion or other treatment.
Do you need help creating a daily routine to restore your smooth skin this winter? Contact U.S. Dermatology Partners today to speak with one of our board-certified dermatologists to help find a skin care routine that works for you.