Don't flake out just 'cause the temperature's dropping. We asked the experts for the most effective skin-savers to keep you glowing till spring.
Whether you hail from Seattle or St. Louis, certain seasonal adjustments are no-brainers. You swap the light trench for the woolly overcoat, stow the window screens, and top up the antifreeze in the car. So why, when it comes to skin care, do you expect the same old routine that worked for spring, summer, and fall to carry you through the icy months? Winter's low humidity and harsh wind chill can affect your derm in different — but no less devastating — ways than blistering heat and sun. So, unless you aspire to the cracked lips, snow-burned hands, and ruddy cheeks of a competitive mountaineer, follow this skin-saving Rx recommended by top experts from around the country.
Sure, it's chilly in your bathroom first thing in the morning, but don't be tempted to crank up the heat in the shower. Derms say hot water followed by cool, dry air is a key culprit when it comes to rough, itchy arms, legs, and backside. Keep showers short and lukewarm, advises NYC dermatologist Dr. Neil Sadick. To lock in moisture post-shower, pat — don't rub — yourself dry, and immediately coat skin in a thick alpha-hydroxy body lotion. "Alpha-hydroxy acids will peel away dead, dry skin, so it gets rid of the flaking while offering deep hydration," Sadick explains. Remember to lubricate your skin through your diet, too, by loading up on foods rich in essential fatty acids, like flaxseed, hemp, and olive oil. Throughout the day, wash it all down with at least six big glasses of water.
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You can always tell when someone hasn't switched from her summer-skin regimen, says Dr. Macrene Alexiades Armenakas, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale. "I see a lot of people getting red, and they're completely at a loss for what happened," she says. Foaming face washes, alcohol-based toners, and astringents are all designed to strip oil — problem is, in winter, there's little oil to strip. Alexiades Armenakas recommends going easy with these products in the cold season — along with retinoids and vitamin C derivatives, which can trigger irritation. "Save these anti-agers for every other night," says Morgan Walsh, an aesthetician at the Aspen Club & Spa in Aspen, CO. As for daytime moisturizing, think layering: perhaps an antioxidant serum under a face cream, topped off with a sunblock. To stave off flaking, consider light exfoliation once a week. "Moisturizing without exfoliating first can result in breakouts and dull skin," says Olga Lorencin Northrup, proprietor of L.A.'s Kinara Skin Care Clinic. If the cold is still drying you out, book a rebalancing deep-hydration facial with soothing ingredients like honey and green tea.
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Even the most luxurious lip gloss can't salvage chapped lips. Time to think beyond the balm and treat lips to the same TLC the rest of your face enjoys. Lorencin Northrup is a big advocate of exfoliating (a mixture of fine salt and olive oil is an effective home remedy) and reapplying moisturizer regularly. "Here's a secret: Use your richest eye cream on your lips!" Fortunately, it usually comes in small jars, so it's easy to stash in your bag. Note: Be sure it's a "hydrating" formula, not "firming" — which is code for drying. For painfully chapped lips, Dr. Linda Stein Gold of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit recommends a dab of hydrocortisone cream once a day for no more than a week.
Hands take a ton of abuse (think about all that hard-core sudsing and washing you do to avoid the office flu). If you find wearing gloves to bed after slathering on hand cream just a little creepy, do like spa pro Walsh and slip them on for 30 minutes while watching TV. Or wrap hands in plastic and wear heated spa mitts from time to time. "Fifteen minutes later, you'll notice a big difference," she attests. If you've tried everything and your hands are still severely irritated, time to pay your derm a visit.