We protect our automobiles and homes from the onset of colder weather, but we often neglect ourselves.
The winter elements — cold temperatures, strong winds, and lower humidity — are especially damaging and drying to skin. Without proper daily care, skin stays dry as well as flaky, and can even become itchy and inflamed.
Dr. Monica Halem, a dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, says there are several steps you can take to have healthier winter skin starting with an effective skin care regime.
Daily moisturizers are essential. She says for individuals with normal to dry skin, a cream-based moisturizer is ideal. Those with sensitive skin should choose a moisturizer without fragrance or lanolin. Apply products directly to wet skin after bathing to ensure that the moisturizer traps any surface moisture.
Clean skin is important; however, Dr. Halem says:
Cleanse your skin, but don’t overdo it. Too much cleansing removes the skin’s natural moisturizers. It is enough to wash your face, hands, feet, and between the folds of your skin once a day. While you can rinse your trunk, arms and legs daily, it is not necessary to use soap or cleanser on these areas every day.
If you have itchy skin, she suggests using less hot water and soap. Take short lukewarm showers or baths with a non-detergent-based product. Pat rather than rub the skin to dry it.
Another step to healthier skin is adding humidity to those environments where central or other indoor heating may be drying. “Room humidifiers can be beneficial,” she says. “However, be sure to clean the unit according to the manufacturer’s instructions to reduce mold and fungi.”
When outdoors in the elements, Dr. Halem says it’s important to protect areas that may be exposed to the wind, especially the face. She suggests covering your face and using a petrolatum-based balm on your lips.
It’s equally important to take cover from the winter sun. Use a sunscreen with a sun-protection factor of 15 or greater any time you plan to be outdoors for prolonged periods. A broad-spectrum sunscreen is best, advises WebMD. Apply it to both face and hands. Overexposure to sunlight can lead to premature aging of the skin and skin cancer.
Frigid temperatures can result in skin disorders or frostbite in some people. Dr. Halem says you should see a doctor immediately if you develop color changes in your hands or feet accompanied by pain or ulceration. Extreme pain in a finger or toe followed by a loss of sensation, for example, may mean you have frostbite.
Susan Ciminelli, owner of the Susan Ciminelli Spa, told Martha Stewart’s viewers that it’s also important for people of all ages to keep properly hydrated in the winter to maintain skin health. She says some drinks — even diet soda — can be dehydrating. This is especially true of hard alcohol. If you must drink, opt for red wine in moderation, or try spring water with a slice of lemon instead of soda.
Apart from ample water, other good fluids to consume, according to The Salt Lake Tribune’s Patty Henetz, include non-caffeinated tea, juices, and soup. If you must drink a cup of coffee, follow it with by drinking an equal amount of plain water.
If you have skin issues at any time of year that aren’t easily resolved and are persisent — dry skin, scaling, itching, skin growths, or rashes – seek treatment from your primary care physician or dermatologist.