Cold, dry weather wreaks havoc on our skin, which can become itchy and feel uncomfortably tight during winter months. We checked with board-certified dermatologist Dr. Payman Kosari and the rest of the experts at Dermatology, Laser & Vein Specialists of the Carolinas (DLVSC) to find out how to combat the common winter problems that plague us year after year:
Cracked lips: According to the staff at DLVSC, the perfect storm of dry winter air and your lips’ paucity of oil glands can wreak havoc on your lips in the chilly months. Avoid the problem entirely by protecting your lips with an emollient-rich lip balm (look for petrolatum in the ingredients, preferably with added SPF for extra protection) when you head outside. recommends Even if you’re in your office all day, apply lip balm frequently (about six to eight coats during the day) to protect your mouth. Also note: licking your lips might feel good for a moment, but it zaps them of moisture and causes more problems in the long run. When you feel the urge, grab your lip balm instead.
Product recommendations from DLVSC staff: Avene Cold Cream Lip Balm or FixMySkin Healing Lip Balm.
Flaky face: Dr. Kosari says a double dose of dryness from outdoor air and indoor heat can really take its toll. Dialing back your face washing routine can help, as can rinsing with cool water rather than warm. The cool rinse is not only calming — it won’t melt off any of the moisturizing agents your cleanser left on your face. You also may need to shelve your oil-free moisturizer/cleanser for the winter in favor of something that can pack more of a moisturizing punch.
Product recommendations from DLVSC staff: CeraVe hydrating cleanser and CeraVe A.M. moisturizer with SPF.
Itchy skin on body: Cold, dry air removes the layer of oil that keep your body supple, and it can even cause conditions like eczema and psoriasis to flare up. According to Dr. Kosari, your first line of defense for itchy winter skin starts in the shower. Even though it’s tempting to stay in the hot steam for ages, Dr. Kosari recommends keeping your showers as brief as possible and using lukewarm, not hot, water. It may also help to switch to moisture-rich soaps made for sensitive skin, and to apply moisturizer while your skin is still slightly damp.
Product recommendations from DLVSC staff: Cetaphil lotion or cream.
Parched hands: The combo of winter air and excessive hand-washing brought on by flu season spells out disaster for your hands. At DLVSC, they recommend only washing your palms (unless the thinner skin on the backs of your hands have been exposed to germs), and to rinse well to avoid letting drying soap residue remain. And don’t forget to rinse between your fingers! When you’re done, apply a high-quality cream, preferably with dimethicone to help seal in the moisture, to the entire hand. Make sure to pay special attention to the more easily chapped backs of your hands.
Product recommendations from DLVSC staff: TheraSeal Hand Protection cream or Aveeno 24-hour skin relief lotion.
Check out DLVSC’s online Skin Secrets Store for more great products.
• Hook up the humidifier: Dr. Kosari says it’s the best way to counteract your heating system’s daily blast of hot, dry air.
• Hydrate: Even though there’s not a lot of evidence that drinking your eight cups of water a day will make a difference to dry skin, it’s still very important to stay hydrated during the cold months.
• Go nuts or go fish: Healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, nuts, sardines and avocados can give skin the tools it needs to stay soft, according to the folks at DLVSC.