Heavy sweater, puffy jacket, gloves, scarf, earmuffs and you’re set to waddle out into the great winter outdoors, bundled up and trying your best to be protected against the harsh winter air. But one thing that you probably are forgetting to prevent and battle during the coldest months of the year? Your skin’s ability to fight against aging. That’s right: believe it or not, the wintertime has a damaging, long-lasting effect on your skin’s elasticity and health.
“The combination of windy, cold, dry weather outside and humidity-depleting heaters indoors works together to drain our skin of vital moisture in winter months,” explains Dr. Arash Akhavan, MD, FAAD, founder and owner of The Dermatology & Laser Group in NYC. “Our dewy, hydrated summer glow can quickly fade to a dull and ashen appearance.”
And if you don’t know already by now, lack of hydration can cause your skin to produce more wrinkles and dry out much faster. So how do you combat these conditions? Dermatologists offer their best solutions.
1. You tend to take longer, warmer baths.
After being outside in the frigid air or having to walk home post-workout class and feeling that sticky sweat dry to your skin and become cold, you might want to hop right into a super-warm shower. But Dr. Akhavan says to resist the urge to spend a lot of time under the shower head. “During winter months you will want to keep your showers and baths shorter. Remember that water does not moisturize your skin, in fact water repels oil, and long showers can unfortunately cause our skin to shed its natural oils,” she explains.
2. You’re using the same facial cleanser you used during summer.
Just like you want to switch from a basic moisturizer in the summer to one that’s ultra-hydrating in the winter, the same method should apply to your facial cleanser. “Winter is a good time to switch to using more gentle cleansers that don’t strip away our moisture. Avoid cleansers that have a high concentration of traditional soap solvents such as sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate (SLS) and avoid overuse of facial cleansers that have high acid content (salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acids such as glycol acid),” Dr. Akhavan says. “A better option is switching to cleansers that have a high moisturizer content and hydrate while they cleanse.
3. You’re not using a humidifier.
What happens when you put together chilly temperatures outside and dry, unforgiving head indoors? A nighttime ritual that demands a lot more attention than slapping on some night cream and heading to sleep. Jessie Cheung MD, director at The Dermatology and Laser Center in Illinois says a humidifier will do wonders for your winter skin. “Get a cool mist humidifier and aim it towards your face while you’re sleeping – this combats the loss of moisture from your skin as your heater runs more overnight from the drop in the temperature. As your skin gets more hydrated, it looks more glowy since it reflects more light,” she says.
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4. Your moisturizer is not enough.
When in doubt in the winter months—moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. But don’t just opt for the super-hydrating formulas without putting in the time to understand the frequency and timing of using them. In fact, Dr. Akhavan says the more often you apply, the better off you’ll be to fight against aging. “In winter months it is important to hydrate your skin often and regularly,” she explains. One of the best times to moisturize your face and your body is when you first come out of the shower or bath. I suggest toweling off but leaving your skin just slightly wet as you apply your moisturizer. Moisturizer spreads more easily on your slightly wet skin.”
5. You’re not exfoliating.
While you might think exfoliating when your skin has the potential to already be dry and sensitive is a bad idea, it’s actually quite contrary. The only way to get rid of dead cells is to make sure you’re deep cleansing. “Sometimes when our skin gets overly dry, it becomes less efficient at exfoliating and dead skin cells can build up on the surface causing the skin to have a dull appearance. This can be especially true in areas such as the elbows, knees, ankles, and feet which can be more susceptible to buildup,” Dr. Akhavan says. “For these areas, I recommend using a moisturizer that has mild exfoliating properties, such as a low concentration of salicylic acid.”
6. You stopped applying sunscreen.
You might be annoyed when your mom reminds you for the 100th time to wear sunscreen year-round, but it’s one warning you want to keep close to your heart and on the top of your priority list. Even when there are six inches of snow on the ground, you still run the risk of sun damage on your skin, no matter your age or location. “Many people unfortunately forget to apply their sunscreen during winter months. Ultraviolet rays are still present even on the coldest and cloudiest days of the winter and protecting your skin from harmful effects of the sun is still important any day you are spending appreciable time outdoors,” Dr. Akhavan says. “There are many products available that are great moisturizers in addition to sunscreens serving an important dual role in dry winter months.”