Skincare is totally seasonal, just like your wardrobe. In summer, you're busy with sun protection (aren't you?), while in winter you may seem addicted to moisturizers because your skin gets so dried out and flaky (this is called "winter itch"). So why the dry skin in winter? Low temperatures, low humidity and strong, harsh winds deplete skin of its natural lipid layer which keeps the skin from drying out. To keep your skin feeling dewy and moist even in the harsh winter weather, follow these dry skin fix-it tips.
Keep Water Lukewarm, Not Hot
Hot water robs skin of moisture causing dry skin, so it's best to shower in lukewarm water. If you can't bear this rule -- I can't -- try to keep your warm showers short and try showering only once per day. This also means skipping the hot tubs in winter (another rule I simply cannot bear). The hot, hot temperature, combined with drying chemicals, is torture on dry skin.
The same rule applies to hand-washing: Wash hands in lukewarm, never hot, water (this is a rule I firmly abide by). If your skin turns red, the water is simply too hot.
Moisturize After Showers or Handwashing
Moisturizer is the key to soft, supple skin in winter. Apply product when skin is slightly damp. For best effect, pat skin dry instead of rubbing with your towel before application.
Antibacterial soap in public places can be harsh on hands, so I like to keep hand salve in my purse (my hands-down favorite: Kiehls). To keep cuticles soft, I massage in olive oil.
Extra tip: I love keeping moisturizer and facial water on my desk at work. I spritz Evian Mineral Spray (about $11 in drugstores), and then dab on moisturizer. The water locks in moisture and leaves my skin refreshed even in harsh office heat.
Exfoliate on a Weekly or Semi-weekly Basis
Moisturizer is much more effective on properly exfoliated skin. Use a scrub in the shower and exfoliate facial skin with a mild scrub made for the face.
It's best to scrub skin when it's dry, according to Marcia Kilgore, the founder of Bliss Spa in New York, in InStyle Magazine's September, 2005, issue. Apply scrub to dry skin before you turn on the water (mix with lotion if it's not moist enough). Massage the scrub in for a good five minutes for best results.
Extra tip: Dry brush skin before a shower with a body brush to remove flaky skin (it's more effective than brushing in the shower).
Invest in a Humidifier
Furnaces rob air of moisture, leaving very little humidity in the air. I once read that your skin needs more than 30 percent humidity to stay properly moisturized. A room heated by a furnace can have as little as 10 percent moisture. In the winter, consider sleeping with a humidifier in your bedroom. Keep doors closed so the moist air doesn't escape the room.
Skip the Drying Soaps
Stick with a creamy moisturizing cleanser that contains glycerin or petrolatum, such as Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Wash, or Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash (my current drugstore pick).
Extra tip: Simply can't skip the bath? Skip the bubbles, which can contain harsh foaming ingredients and opt for bath oils or oatmeal scrubs, which are great for soothing itchy skin.
Baby Your Hands & Feet
Hands and feet can suffer terribly in winter. Put on moisturizer and gloves BEFORE you head outdoors, and consider lathering up your feet in thick moisturizer and sleeping in cotton socks at night.
Extra tip: Cover feet in a thick moisturizer, wrap feet in Saran Wrap, then pull on a pair of socks for a couple hours. Try to sit or lie down while the moisturizer soaks in or risk sliding into a full split and pulling your groin muscles. The same treatment can be done on hands, except try plastic bags and keep hands in a pair of socks. A half-hour should do you.
Stay Hydrated But Don't Go Overboard
Many people believe if they drink more water, they'll hydrate skin. But I've read time and time again that this is a myth and you simply cannot moisturize skin from the inside out.
That said, a small study recently published by the University of Hamburg (and reported in Allure magazine), suggests people who drink relatively little water could see a significant benefit in skin hydration if they started drinking nine eight-ounce glasses of water per day. What does this mean? Probably that dehydration does affect skin, but a normally hydrated person isn't going to see major benefits by drinking even more water. My advice: don't expect bottled water to save you from winter itch.
Don't Forget Your Lips
Licking your lips will not moisturize them and instead will help dry them out. Lips retain less moisture than other parts of the body, so they tend to dry out more quickly. A simple lip balm2 helps, as does my all-time favorite lip trick learned in high school from "Seventeen" magazine: moisturize your lips with Vaseline. Take a toothbrush and "brush" your lips in a circular motion. This will remove dead flakes and leave your lips soft and supple.
Try: Kinerase Lip Treatment3 (about $38).
Your Face Needs Extra Care in Winter
Cold, winter wind can wreak havoc on skin. To keep your face supple in winter, apply moisturizer to your face before going out into the cold and cover your face with a scarf in harsh wind.
If you have super, duper sensitive skin, consider avoiding rinsing your face with tap water, which can contain harsh minerals that are especially drying to the skin (Dr. Dennis Gross once told me New York water contains a lot of harsh minerals, while Seattle water, for example, does not. Go figure).
Instead, do like the French and cleanse skin in winter with a cleaner that does not require rinsing, like Pond's Cold Cream. You can also rinse with special water that contains selenium and chamomile, suggests beauty expert Valerie Monroe in the September, 2006 issue of O, the Oprah Magazine.
Extra tip: Try spritzing your face with facial water (Evian Mineral Spray, $11, works great) before applying moisturizer several times during the day in the office. The water locks in moisture and leaves skin refreshed even in harsh office heat.