Winter is a terrible season for your skin. Heaters in the home dry out the air. Outside, gusty winds can cause skin to dry and crack. The thin, protective layer of moisture and oil on your skin can be quickly wicked away or dried up, leaving your skin sensitive.
“With skin being so dry in the winter, anything can become an irritant,” says Denise Brooks, a physician’s assistant who works with Dr. Donna Corvette at Dermatology Center of Williamsburg. “Dry skin can cause flare-ups in patients who have eczema (atopic dermatitis) or psoriasis.”
Brooks says that even healthy skin can fall victim to winter air, causing rashes and contact dermatitis. She suggests the following techniques for keeping your skin healthy through the colder months.
“Basically, you’re going to want to protect your skin from the elements.”
Choose the Right Products
Any products that touch your skin, including lotions, soaps and dish detergents, can help or hurt your skin. Brooks says you should always choose products without fragrances and dyes.
Look at the ingredients in all your products. You’ll want to avoid ingredients such as:
- Dyes (often listed as their color)
- Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate
Brooks also recommends avoiding facial peels, masks or toner-based astringents in the winter. These products can irritate the skin. “The last thing you are going to want to do is a facial peel,” Brooks says. “It is going to decrease the top layer of skin and put you at more exposure risk for further drying out your skin. Avoid hot baths during this time of year, too.”
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
Moisturizing can help prevent rashes and breakouts while keeping your skin looking healthy.
“After you take a bath or have exposure to moisture, pat dry, then moisturize,” says Brooks. “Especially after showering or after being out in the elements,it is important to moisturize with gentle products.” Brooks recommended brands like Vanicream, Serave and Cetaphil, which are gentle and don’t contain a lot of additives.
Cover Your Face, Hands and Feet
Your face, hands and feet are the most sensitive to winter air. You should wear gloves when outdoors to protect your hands. Wearing socks indoors can also help keep your feet moisturized. When you go outdoors, cover your face with a scarf or a hat.
If your skin begins to feel tight or dry during the day, apply a moisturizer to feel more comfortable.
Use Sunscreen—Even in Winter
Though winter isn’t particularly sunny, when the sun is out, it can make dry skin worse. Sun exposure can also increase your risk for skin cancer.
“Basically, you’re going to want to protect your skin from the elements,” Brooks says. “The sun in general has a tendency to dry out your skin. Wear a good sunblock in the winter and the fall.”
Brooks recommends especially covering the face and neck with sunblock when spending time outside in the winter.
Drink Plenty of Water
Brooks also recommends drinking plenty of water throughout the winter. When you are well-hydrated, your skin will feel and look healthier. Drinking water can help combat dry skin from the inside out.
Use a Humidifier
A humidifier adds moisture to the air in your home. It can keep your skin more moist and also help with sore throats and dry noses when you’re sick. Putting a humidifier in your bedroom can help your skin stay hydrated as you sleep.
If you experience dry skin or skin irritation in the winter, you should always see a dermatologist to ensure it’s not caused by an underlying condition.