The cold weather’s dry air can wreak havoc on your skin, but you can avoid these skin woes, says Dr. Morgan Thakore, a dermatologist at Augusta University Medical Center, by following these nine tips:
Take lukewarm showers. A long, relaxing, hot bath or shower feels great on a cold day, but hot water strips the skin’s natural oils. Instead, use warm or lukewarm water when bathing. Furthermore, keep shower time short in the colder months – no more than 10 minutes – and only once within a 24-hour period in order to retain the most moisture.
Choose your soap wisely. If it’s not a gentle formula already, then switch your cleanser to a gentler one. A strong, antibacterial, deodorant soap usually contains irritating ingredients and fragrances. Use a fragrance-free, moisturizing cleanser or gel. Reducing the amount of soap you use will also help keep skin moist.
Avoid toners and astringents. Or use them sparingly since most contain skin-drying alcohol. Cream-based facial cleansers are a better option. For women, be sure to use a moisturizing makeup for your face during the day, and apply richer moisturizer on your face at night before bed.
Keep skin moisturized. It’s best to moisturize your entire body immediately after washing in order to lock in the water gained from your shower or bath. First, pat dry your skin, and then use an oil-based or ointment moisturizer. Ointments combine 80 percent oil and 20 percent water to form a protective layer on the skin that is more effective than creams or lotions. Avoid citrus fragrances in body lotions during the winter months because they can burn or irritate the skin.
Protect your hands. Because we wash our hands so often on a daily basis, they need extra protection. To retain more moisture, avoid using excessively hot water for hand washing. Also, apply hand cream after every washing to prevent chapping and cracking, which can lead to bleeding where the knuckles and fingers bend if not lubricated properly. And grab those gloves when you go outdoors to protect hands from wind damage. Make sure your gloves are made from materials that don’t irritate your skin, or you’re defeating the purpose. Also, take advantage of those specially-made gloves for wearing while doing the dishes and other sink chores. They offer tremendous protection.
Use a humidifier. A humidifier helps replace the moisture that evaporates in the cold air. If you don’t have one, you can buy a humidifier from your local pharmacy or retail store. For best results, use the humidifier in the rooms you spend the most time in, like a family room or the bedroom. Aim for levels of 30 to 50 percent humidity.
Watch the thermostat. Hot air is drier than cool air. So, don’t crank up the heat when it’s cold outside. Instead, try setting your thermostat at a cool, yet comfortable temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent skin from losing moisture.
Dress in layers. Wear the appropriate clothing for the temperature and dress in layers. Wear soft, breathable materials against your skin and then pull on a warm sweater. Wearing layers allows you to remove clothing as needed to prevent overheating, which can trigger a scratch/itch cycle. Individuals with eczema-prone skin should avoid direct contact with wool.
Use sunscreen. Yes, you can sunburn in the fall and winter. Apply a sunscreen with at least a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15, and apply lip balm to protect the lips. Most lip balms include sunscreen, but check the label before you purchase. And, finally, avoid extended sun exposure if you are taking medications that don’t agree with sun exposure. If you are unsure, check with your doctor about the medicines you take.