Ah, winter. It's that wonderful time of year when we trade in our flip-flops and bronzed skin for sweaters and snow boots. Sure, there are many things to like about winter, but it wreaks havoc on our bodies, leaving us with scaly, dry skin.
It may feel like you have to deal with four months of dry skin, but you don't! We sought the advice of Dr. Suzan Obagi, professor of dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh, and San Francisco-based medical aesthetician Susan Perry, for some of their tried-and-true winter dry skin cures and they clued us in to the keys for achieving soft and supple skin during the coldest days of winter.
The harsh, cold winter winds strip the air of much needed moisture, leaving you with dry skin. Your skin is happiest at 60 percent or above relative humidity—the central heating in your average home and office dips that percentage down to around 40 percent in the winter. A humidifier helps put that moisture back into the air, so consider running one continuously throughout the day.
A hot shower might feel good on a cold winter day, but the hot temperatures strip away moisture. Fix dry skin by reducing the water temperature as much as you can stand and limit your showers to 10 minutes or less.
The harsh ingredients in soap can quickly dry your skin, so Dr. Obagi recommends only using soap on the "dirty" areas of the body—the armpits and groin areas. "Water alone is usually enough to cleanse the skin of the arms and legs without risking the drying effects of soap," she says.
Some cleansers used to tackle acne contain skin-drying ingredients—a double whammy when you already have dry skin due to the weather. A gentle cleanser like Cetaphil will help take away dirt and oil without over-drying your already dry skin.
Quickly pat dry your skin after a shower and apply a thick moisturizing cream or ointment while your skin is still damp. The cream adds a barrier on your dry skin, essentially "locking in" moisture, according to Dr. Obagi. She recommends using a moisturizer formulated with 12 percent lactic acid to fix rough, dry skin patches. Ask your pharmacist which lotion he or she recommends.
If you spend time outside in the winter, protect your skin from weather extremes. Apply a high-SPF sunscreen several times each day to help avoid painful sunburns and skin damage.
Dr. Obagi explains, "The high winds and cold temperatures can result in tiny broken blood vessels and leave the skin chapped and wind-burned. Wearing high collars, scarves, and gloves in addition to sunscreen can help create a barrier between your skin and the elements and protect against dry skin."
Don't forget the medicated lip balm. Find a high-quality lip balm that heals and moisturizers and apply it liberally each day to avoid cracked lips. "It's worth the splurge," Perry says, "worth every penny."
Hydrate your skin from the inside out by drinking plenty of water. Shoot for at least six glasses a day, though you can get your fill with juice as well. Try to avoid caffeine as much as possible, it's a diuretic that flushes water out of your body, leaving you dehydrated and your skin dry.
Also, treat your skin to some humidity with a hydrating water mist to freshen dry skin while on the go. Make your own with distilled water and a few drops of lavender oil or use Evian Mineral Water Spray or La Roche-Posay's Thermal Spring Water.
Winter is the most popular time to get medical skin treatments and cosmetic surgery, according to Perry. You cover more of your skin in winter, so it's the perfect time to schedule dry skin facials, microdermabrasion, and laser treatments. "Most only require a few days of down time so you can look great for the party season," she says.
While exfoliation helps fix dry skin, it can also harm it if you do it too often during the dry winter months. Instead of gritty, abrasive scrubs, switch to a gentle buffing cream for weekly exfoliation. Gently removing dead skin build-up will allow your skin to retain moisture and brighten the surface.
Learn how to make a homemade mask to treat dry skin using bananas and egg whites.
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