This time of year, it’s common for my patients to come to me complaining of very dry, sensitive and sometimes cracked skin. The dropping temperatures, decrease in humidity and heaters continually running can distress the skin.
There are a few do’s and don’ts this fall and winter seasons when it comes to caring for your skin. This includes small lifestyle changes along with skin care products that help hydrate, protect and improve the visible appearance of your skin.
- Use a gentle cleanser.
A cleanser should remove makeup and clear pores without stripping skin of the necessary oils. I recommend my patients use a lotion or a gentle foaming cleanser in the colder months to help improve hydration and soothe winter itch.
- Use a heavier moisturizer. The amount of hydration your skin requires most likely differs in the winter when it’s exposed to dry wind and colder air. Try using a more emollient product to give skin additional hydration. For example, if you use a lotion moisturizer in the summer, switch to a cream during the fall and winter months.
- Apply sunscreen. Ultraviolet rays are still a threat to skin even during colder months. Outdoor activities like skiing increase your exposure when sun reflects off the snow. I always encourage my patients to use an SPF 30 or higher every day in fall and winter to protect against visible signs of aging.
- Care for the whole body. The skin plays a key role in the immune system and is the body’s first line of defense. I remind my patients it’s important to care for skin on their arms, legs and torso as part of a well-rounded strategy for staying healthy in the winter.
- Ignore it.
If left untreated, dry skin can lead to a condition called winter itch. This is when the skin barrier can become very dry and cracked, which could lead to infection. Apply an extra-hydrating lotion on hands, feet, arms and legs to maintain hydration.
- Soak in very hot water.
While it’s relaxing to take a long, hot shower in the cold weather, this can dramatically lower the moisture content in your skin. Limit your time in the shower or bath, and avoid using very hot water.
- Overdo your moisturizer.
On the flip side, too much hydration can do more harm than good. Healthy skin needs only a specific amount of moisture and oils, so I tell my patients to use a product specifically formulated to give skin the right amount of moisture along with the proper oils that keep the skin healthy.
- Exfoliate with physical exfoliants.
Exfoliating with agents like microbeads can tear the skin, leading to inflammation. When skin is more delicate from the cold weather, exfoliating can aggravate it even further. A better alternative is a salicylic and azelaic acid product to clear out pores and remove surface scale.
If my patients stay on top of dry and irritated skin in the fall and winter, their overall health will be better as well. Of course, every person’s skin is different, so I do recommend visiting your skin care professional for a complete consultation to determine what may be best for you.
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