Don’t wait for the harsh winds and biting cold of winter to dry out your skin and wreak havoc by causing cracked lips, chapped skin, irritation, and inflammation, while aggravating acne, psoriasis, and eczema. There’s no excuse not to take extra care of your skin this time of the year—and there’s every reason you should.
When your skin encounters cold, whether it’s the air, wind, or water, your pores tighten, which reduces circulation. The natural oil produced by our bodies that keeps our skin moisturized is called sebum, which becomes greatly reduced when skin is subjected to cold. The result is flaking and cracking, which can be painful—especially since bacteria gets into your skin’s pores faster and causes outbreaks that can last all winter.
Here are FIVE ways to protect your skin:
- AVOID SCRATCHY MATERIALS. Wool sweaters and scarves that come in contact with your face and surprisingly, shirts and turtlenecks washed with detergents and fabric softeners, can cause irritation, especially when the skin is exposed to windburn. Instead, use gentle, hypoallergenic washing liquid on your clothing and wear soft, close-knit fabrics such as cottons and even lightweight wools. Sure, wear a muffler and of course cover your mouth from the cold air—but again, choose a soft wool, like an alpaca blend, or finely woven wool scarf.
- WINTER SKINCARE PRODUCTS differ from summer skincare products. Products with glycolic acid, aloe vera, and urea are meant to protect skin from drying—and don’t use exfoliators, which in and of themselves can subject your skin to abrasion and exacerbate already dry winter skin. Choose a winter moisturizer—one that’s heavier yet absorbs well into the skin—and be sure it has sunscreen. The sun’s glare off of snow is more potentially harmful than direct summer sun.
- WARM—NOT HOT—BATHS AND SHOWERS. Nothing feels more warming than a hot bath or shower after coming in from the cold, but that doesn’t help your skin. Hot water dries out your skin and hair by removing moisture on contact. Use warm water, lather up, rinse thoroughly, and when you dry off (especially your face) pat dry with a soft towel.
- STAY HYDRATED! Keep the moisture inside as well as out. The number one cause of dry skin is not drinking enough water. Drink at least eight tall glasses a day, throughout the day, to stay healthily hydrated. (If you’re traveling, catch up in the evening, at the hotel, even if it means getting up more frequently during the night.) Remember: tea, coffee, and alcohol are dehydrating so offset those by drinking an extra glass of water.
- HAVE MOISTURIZER, WILL TRAVEL. Always keep a small bottle of body and hand moisturizer in your purse—the kind you get at hotels is a nice size—and likewise keep a tube of facial moisturizer handy. Apply frequently and rub in deeply to get you through the day until it’s time for your nighttime routine. And remember—it’s important to keep to a regular skincare routine, day and night.
One last thing…your eyes. Wearing ski goggles or sunglasses is important but it doesn’t keep the cold from potentially damaging your eyes. Morning and night, according to the directions, apply eye moisturizing drops to protect your eyes and keep them healthy.
There are any number of affordable, over-the-counter skincare products that are available in drugstores and many grocery stores. And though every luxury cosmetics brand offers moisturizers, it’s important to use those that are fragrance-free, which otherwise might further irritate your skin. If you are experiencing any kind of discomfort or pain, and especially if your skin is not improving, it’s important you see a dermatologist. Whatever you do—even if it’s applying the old-time standard, Vaseline™, just like Grandma used—it all comes down to keeping your skin moist, protect yourself from the elements, and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.