Best Tips for Healthy Winter Skin

Dry winter air can wreak havoc on your skin — leaving it dry, itchy, and irritated; but there are many simple ways to combat dry skin causes and help keep your skin feeling moist and supple all winter long. Here are 10 ways to get started.

Top 10 Tips for Healthy Winter Skin

1. Invest in a humidifier. Using a humidifier in your home or office will add moisture to dry winter air and help keep your skin hydrated. Run a humidifier in the rooms you spend the most time in, including your bedroom.

2. Lower the thermostat. When it’s chilly outside, what’s the first thing you want to do? Crank up the heat! But central heat can make the air in your house even drier. Try setting the thermostat at a cool, yet comfortable setting — 68°F to 72°F — to maintain healthy skin.

3. Skip hot showers. Although it may be tempting to warm up with a long, steamy shower, hot water dries out your skin by stripping it of its natural oils. Instead, take a 5- to 10-minute lukewarm shower (or bath). You should also avoid using excessively hot water when washing your hands — if the water causes your skin to turn red, it’s too hot.

4. Choose cleanser wisely. The wrong soap can worsen itchy, dry skin. For instance, steer clear of regular bar soaps, since they tend to contain irritating ingredients and fragrances. Instead, start washing with a fragrance-free, moisturizing cleanser or gel. You can also prevent winter skin problems by using less soap, so limit your lathering to necessary areas, such as your hands, armpits, genitals, and feet.

5. Modify your facial skin care regimen for the season. During the winter months, choose cream-based cleansers, and apply toners and astringents sparingly, if at all. Many astringents contain alcohol, which can further dry your skin. Look for products that contain little or no alcohol — unless your skin is excessively oily. At night, use a richer moisturizer on your face.

6. Moisturize frequently. Maintain healthy skin by moisturizing after washing up. “Blot skin dry and apply a thick moisturizer within a few minutes after bathing to seal the water into the skin,” says Linda Stein Gold, MD, director of dermatology clinical research and division head of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital, West Bloomfield, MI. “It’s best to use a cream or ointment in the winter. Lotions are better in warmer, humid climates. And don’t forget your hands,” says Dr. Stein Gold. “Constant washing will cause the hands to take a beating. Apply hand cream after each washing, and wear waterproof gloves when washing dishes or cleaning around the house.”

7. Apply sunscreen — even in winter. It is still important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays on cold, dreary days in winter. Before going outside, apply a moisturizing, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to all exposed areas of your body.

8. Wear appropriate clothing. Many cold-weather fabrics can aggravate dry winter skin. “Keep wool and rough clothing from directly touching your skin,” says Stein Gold. “This can cause dry skin to get irritated and itchy.” Wear soft, breathable materials against your skin, and then pull on a warmer sweater. Protect your hands from cold winter air with gloves or mittens. Remember to choose a pair that won’t irritate your skin. If you prefer wool gloves, put cotton or silk glove liners on first.

9. Eat right and stay hydrated. “Sometimes when skin is very dry, it can be helped by foods or supplements that contain omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids, such as fish oil and flaxseed oil,” says Barbara R. Reed, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, CO, and in private practice at Denver Skin Clinic. “For the most part, however, it is important to help the skin moisturize from the outside.”

10. Change out of wet clothes quickly. Wearing wet clothes and shoes can further irritate your skin and cause itchiness. Be sure to remove wet gloves, socks, and pants as soon as possible.

If you still experience dryness, discomfort, and irritation after trying these healthy skin tips, Stein Gold suggests using an over-the-counter, 1-percent hydrocortisone cream. “If you don’t see improvement in a few days, talk with your doctor,” Stein Gold says. You may need a prescription-strength moisturizer to overcome winter’s drying effects on your skin.

Know More About Oily Skin Dos and Don’ts

If your skin is oily, you may be bothered by the shine, greasy texture, and breakouts. But don’t blame the foods you’re eating. “There is no data to show that you will produce more oil if you consume things that are more oil-based,” says Rebecca Kazin, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University and medical director of the Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center in Baltimore. “The fact is that people who have oily skin were probably born that way. There is not much they did to get it and there is not much they can do to prevent it.”

Oily Skin Care Dos

The good news is there are several ways to manage oily skin, experts say:

  • Wash with salicylic acid. “Cleansers that contain salicylic acidpenetrate into the pores and help remove fats that clog the pores and lead to blackheads,” says Leslie Baumann, MD, director of the University of Miami’s Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute.
  • Use a retinoid at night. Whether over-the-counter or prescription, retinoid products decrease oil production in the skin. “This helps reduce blackheads and may lower sebum production,” says Dr. Baumann.
  • Use oil-free foundations. To avoid creating more of a shine and potentially clogging pores, make sure your foundation is oil-free. Use a powder blush instead of a cream formula for the same reasons.
  • Use blotting paper. Washing your face during the day can be difficult, especially for women who wear makeup. Instead, dermatologists recommend blotting paper. “You can absorb the extra oil without washing your face, and they are not irritating to the skin,” says Dr. Kazin. Paper towels can be substituted in a pinch, but blotting paper is better because it contains a small amount of powder, which evens out skin color.

Oily Skin Care Don’ts

Knowing what not to do can be just as important as knowing how to properly care for your oily skin. Experts weigh in on what to avoid:

  • Don’t use creamy or milk cleansers. “These types of cleansers deposit unnecessary lipids — oils — on the skin, which can make you feel even oilier,” says Baumann. Better to stick with salicylic acid or glycolic cleansers, or gentle liquid cleansers such as Cetaphil.
  • Don’t moisturize. Even better than searching for the perfect oil-free moisturizer is ditching this step altogether. Instead, use a gel or serum with anti-aging ingredients. Baumann recommends Skinceutical CE Ferulic or Replenix CF serum.
  • Don’t rely on SPF powders. Most sunscreens are formulated in oil preparations that feel and look greasy, so for people with oily skin, SPF (skin protection factor) powders are tempting. But Baumann warns: “They do not have enough SPF, even if it says so on the label. To get the SPF stated on the label, you’d need to use 15 times the amount of powder you would normally use.”
  • Don’t overwash. Oily skin isn’t a hygiene problem, so extra cleansing isn’t the answer. “If you wash too much, you can strip your face of the essential oils that serve as a barrier to a lot of irritants,” Kazin says. “This can cause your face to become red and raw. It’s better to wash twice a day and use blotting paper when you feel shiny throughout the day.”

Knowing how to care for oily skin is important. Follow these tips to keep your skin in the best health possible: Healthy skin equals beautiful skin.

Tips to Treat Winter Dry Skin

A scratchy wool sweater may make your skin itchy and sensitive during the cold months, but winter weather itself poses a special threat to your skin. There’s little humidity in the air and revving up the heat indoors makes it even worse. The result: Dry skin in need of moisture, says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation.

When you have dry, sensitive skin, it itches, appears dull, and may be flaky. Darker skin tones may look ashy, Dr. Fusco says. Dry skin can become cracked and even split. In an extreme case, dry skin can look thickened and leathery, she says.

Before you decide to relocate to a warmer, more humid climate, take these steps to sea in the moisture and repair winter skin.

Your Moisturizer: Go From Thin to Thick

While you might only need a thin lotion on your body during summer months, Fusco suggests switching to a thicker skin moisturizer, such as an ointment or cream, in the winter. Apply it when your skin is still damp from a shower.

An ointment such as petroleum jelly is the thickest skin moisturizer you can buy and will work well for treating dry skin, Fusco says. Although it can be greasy, if you put it on when your skin is damp, the greasiness will go away. “But don’t put it on the bottom of your feet because you could slip and fall,” Fusco cautions.

Creams are also thicker than lotion and are great for winter skin. If your skin is very, very dry, you may want to try one that contains alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA, to exfoliate dead skin, Fusco says.

Winter Complexion Protection

Be sure to use a separate moisturizer specifically designed for your face, Fusco says. The skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive, so always choose a moisturizer that’s labeled “non-comedogenic” because it won’t clog your pores or lead to pimples. If you have sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to look for a hypoallergenic moisturizer, adds Fusco.

Go with a lighter moisturizer such as a lotion if you have oily skin and a heavier formula if you have dry skin. If you have a combination of oily and dry skin on your face, use a lighter lotion overall and dab the areas of dry skin with the thicker cream, Fusco says.

The sun’s damaging rays can still reach your skin in the winter. Fusco recommends using a face moisturizer with an SPF, or sun protection factor. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a sunscreen all year round, with an SPF of 30 or higher that protects against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.

Switch Up Your Shower Strategy

It may be hard to resist a long soak in a hot bath when it’s cold outside, but it doesn’t do your skin any favors. “Sitting in hot baths has a drying effect on the skin,” Fusco says. A better idea: Take a short, warm shower.

Keep showers under 10 minutes and apply your skin moisturizer within three minutes of stepping out. Also, avoid soaps with deodorants, fragrance, or alcohol because they can strip your skin of its natural oils.

Other Ways to Add Moisture

Using a humidifier in your home will help put moisture back into the air and keep your skin from getting dry, Fusco says. No humidifier? Fill a bowl with water and put it near the source of your heat, suggests Fusco.

Getting good-for-you fats into your diet from unsaturated sources like oils and nuts will also help skin look healthy and stay supple during the winter, Fusco says. Drinking plenty of water helps to moisturize your skin from the inside out.

Winter doesn’t have to mean itchy, flaky dry skin. Choosing the right skin moisturizer and taking some simple steps can help you look your best all season long.

More Information About The Best Care for Your Skin Type

Makeup experts and skin care specialists refer often to various skin types — dry, oily, combination — assuming you know which category you fall under. Your skin care regimen depends on your skin type, but not everyone has a good understanding of their skin. As a result, their skin care plan is more of the hit-or-miss variety.

Know Your Skin Type

Unsure of what skin type you have? See which description fits you best:

Dry skin. “Dry skin can be flaky and easily irritated. It’s more sensitive,” says Linda Franks, MD, director of Gramercy Park Dermatology and clinical assistant professor in the department of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine in New York. She says if your skin has these qualities and also tends to react to some (or all) of the skin products you have tried, you have dry skin. The extreme version of dry skin is sensitive skin.
Oily skin. The primary test for determining if you have oily skin is when you start to feel some oil on your face. Most people can feel a little oil by late afternoon, but if you feel oil around midday, you have oily skin. Oily skin rarely reacts negatively to skin products like dry, sensitive skin types do. It has slightly better natural sun protection, but is also prone to acne.
Combination skin. If the description of dry skin matches your cheeks, but the description of oily skin matches your “T-zone” (nose and brow area primarily), you have combination skin.
Matching skin care to skin type is important. Dr. Franks notes that there are two commonly used skin care products that just about everyone can steer clear of: toner and too-frequent exfoliation, both of which can strip away the protective layers of your skin. If you have a good skin care regimen, you don’t need either one, although you could plan for a semi-annual exfoliation as seasons change.

Caring for Dry Skin
Dry skin needs babying and lots of tender, loving care. Here are the key components of dry skin care:

Cleanse. Use a gentle cleanser. You should be able to cleanse at night and not have to cleanse again in the morning. “Mild cleansers are best for all skin types,” says Franks, who recommends Purpose, Dove bar soap, or Cetaphil cleanser. These cleansers should easily remove makeup as well as dirt.
Apply retinol. “Stick to a retinol for anti-aging. Retinol can be very good for dry skin,” says Franks. However, not everyone with dry skin can use retinol products due to sensitivity. If irritation appears, the frequency of use can be decreased.
Apply products with hyaluronic acid. “The other thing that can go on underneath a moisturizer is a hyaluronic acid product. That molecule is very hydroscopic — it pulls water in around it. That would be a great augmenting moisturizer for someone with dry skin,” says Franks.
Moisturize. “The stratum corneum, which is the dead skin cell layer that protects the surface of the skin, tends to get easily interrupted with dry skin. You want to try to repair that,” advises Dr. Franks. Look for moisturizers that contain phospholipids, cholesterol, and essential fatty acids. She recommends CeraVe Moisturize in the morning (with an SPF of 30) and more moisturizer before bed, using a thicker cream, such as Olay’s Regenerist.
Proceed with caution. It helps to take your time adding new products to your skin care routine, says Franks. Try them one at a time and wait to see if you get a reaction before adding another new product.
Caring for Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, you’ll have an easier time finding skin care products that won’t irritate, but your challenge is managing the oil:

Cleanse. People with oily skin or acne should wash with a gentle cleanser morning and evening. Franks offers this tip for cleansing properly: Use your fingertips and rub it in for 30 seconds before rinsing.
Use salicylic acid. Apply an alcohol-free salicylic acid product, such as a Stridex pad, or a salicylic acid medicated cleanser on the oily areas of your skin. Do this two or three times a week.
Apply retinol. Retinol products also cut down on oil production and reduce the appearance of large pores. They are a good anti-aging choice for those with oily skin, who are less likely to find them irritating than those with dry skin.
Moisturize. Use an oil-free moisturizer with SPF 30. “One of my favorites is Complete Defense in the Olay line,” says Franks.
Caring for Combination Skin

People with combination skin will follow the same basic routine, but have to make it a balancing act, drawing from skin care routines for both oily and dry skin:

Cleanse. Stick to gentle cleansers. “Do not use a medicated cleanser at all — keep it mild,” says Franks. Once a day should be fine unless you have significant oil in some parts of your face.
Spot-treat with salicylic acid. Apply this to the oilier areas of your face every other day.
Moisturize. Go for oil-free products with SPF 30 and spot-treat the drier areas of your face with richer moisturizer.
Take some time to develop the skin care routine that’s right for your skin type. If you are still unsure of how to care for your complexion, talk to a dermatologist about the products you are using and how they affect your skin. With a little work, you can achieve a healthy glow, no matter what your skin type.

Best Ways to Protect Your Skin

You need to protect your skin because of the vital role it has protecting your body. Skin care doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, and can quickly become second nature, like brushing your teeth.

These five skin protection tips can keep your skin looking and feeling great, by guarding against a slew of skin woes, from chapped skin to prematurely agingto skin cancer.

1. Limit Sun Exposure

You’ve heard the message a zillion times, and there’s good reason for that unrelenting repetition. Ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun cause many types of skin damage:

  • Skin cancer
  • Wrinkles
  • Freckles
  • Age spots
  • Discolorations
  • Benign growths

Using skin care products that offer ultraviolet protection is one of the best ways to help keep your skin looking fresh and youthful:

  • Use sunscreen every day and reapply regularly whenever you’re outdoors for extended periods.
  • Cover skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats.
  • Stay indoors when the sun is at its most intense, usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Keep in mind that tanning beds are just as harmful as direct sunlight, as they also emit ultraviolet rays.

2. Stay Hydrated

Keeping your skin moist is essential to skin protection. Skin that is properly hydrated retains pliability and prevents chapped skin or scaly, flaky skin:

  • Drink lots of water. This is key to hydrating your skin.
  • Use the right moisturizing cream or lotion for your skin type and apply it right after drying off from your bath or shower. Avoid products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, as this ingredient removes natural oils needed by your skin.
  • Take warm (not hot) showers or baths, and limit them to between 5 and 10 minutes. It seems counterintuitive, but exposure to water actually dries out your skin. If dry skin persists, consider cutting back on the number of baths you take.

3. Take Health Precautions

Cold sores are caused by a viral infection of the skin bordering the lips, while bacteria can contribute to acne and other skin conditions. Practicing skin protection means paying close attention to what touches your skin, to lower your chances of exposure to germs:

  • Don’t share any personal items, such as lip balms or toothbrushes.
  • Don’t share drinks with other people.
  • Avoid touching your face with your fingers or with objects like telephone receivers that have been used by others.

4. Use Gentle Skin Care

Washing your face is important to remove dirt, oils, germs, and dead cells. However, scrubbing your face causes irritation that can lead to chapped skin that, in turn, can leave skin vulnerable. For best results, you should:

  • Wash your face twice daily with warm water and a mild cleanser.
  • Gently massage your face with a washcloth, using a circular motion.
  • Rinse thoroughly after washing to remove all soap and debris.
  • Pat your skin dry — don’t rub — then apply your facial moisturizer.

5. Know Your Skin

Pay attention to odd freckles, moles, and growths on your skin, and consult your doctor if you notice any changes. For example, a change in a mole can indicate potential skin cancer. Be sure to treat any cuts that may occur to prevent infection. Other skin conditions that merit a dermatologist visit include frequent acne, inflamed or irritated dry skin, and skin rashes and irritations that don’t go away, as these could be signs of one of the many types of dermatitis, or skin inflammation.

With proper skin care to pamper skin from the outside and with a good diet to nourish from within, skin protection comes down to a few simple steps. But should you ever notice any problems, get medical attention to resolve them quickly and avoid putting your skin at risk.

MOre Information About The Skin Care Benefits of Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Skin care fads come and go, but alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) have been popular for some time.

AHAs are a collection of compounds made from familiar food products. Among the most widely known are glycolic acid (from sugar cane), lactic acid (sour milk), malic acid (apples), citric acid (citrus fruits), and tartaric acid (wine grapes).

The original seekers of younger-looking skin used these natural compounds many centuries ago, going back as far as the ancient Egyptians. In the United States, their popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. First, dermatologists used them for in-office facial peels, then they found their way into many skin care products after their FDA approval for over-the-counter use in 1992. Today you can find AHAs in hundreds of items, ranging from face and body creams tosunscreen, acne products, shampoos, cuticle softeners, and lightening agents.

“Alpha hydroxy acids are great exfoliators and increase blood flow to the skin, so they can help to minimize fine lines and wrinkles,” says Kenneth Beer, MD, a clinical instructor in dermatology at Duke University in Durham, N.C., who is in private practice in Palm Beach, Fla.

Other potential skin care benefits include lightening of dark spots and a reduction in the appearance of blackheads and acne.

AHA Skin Care Products: Making the Right Choices

“There is no ‘best’ concentration, nor ‘best’ preparation,” says Robin Ashinoff, MD, director of cosmetic dermatology at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J. It all depends on your skin type and the amount of improvement desired.

The main difference among alpha hydroxy acid skin care products is their concentration and pH. At over-the-counter levels, alpha hydroxy acids are generally safe for many people, though those with sensitive skin, rosacea, or seborrheic dermatitis may be more likely to get a rash and need to halt treatment or try a different brand. Typically, over-the-counter skin care products, such as moisturizers or lotions, contain less than 5-percent glycolic acid; medical-grade “cosmeceuticals” (products that are a cross between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, or drug-strength meds) have 8 to 14 percent. These products are designed for daily use, but it can take months to show improvement.

“Quicker, better results can be obtained with 20- to 30-percent glycolic acid peels, but results are temporary and need to be repeated frequently,” says Dale Isaacson, MD, an associate clinical professor at George Washington University Medical Center who is in private practice in Washington, D.C. These peels must be done by trained cosmetologists.

The best and longest-lasting results come from peels done at 50- to 70-percent concentrations, but they have the most risk of side effects and a doctor must apply them.

AHA Skin Care Products in a Nutshell

The pros:

  • Subtle improvement gives skin a fresher look.
  • With lighter peels, there’s fine-line reduction without any down time.
  • AHAs often lighten age spots and remove blackheads as part of the results.
  • Drugstore brands are inexpensive to try on your own.

The cons:

  • At-home products at low concentrations may take months to show results.
  • The most effective peels must be done in a doctor’s office and can be expensive.
  • Deep peels have a longer healing time; skin will look sunburned for a couple of days and then peel.
  • New skin is more sensitive to sun damage; you’ll need to be vigilant about sunscreen.

The next time you’re browsing for skin care products, look for those containing one of the alpha hydroxy acids. And be sure to buy extra sunscreen — not just because AHAs expose new skin to sun damage, but because a good sunscreen is also one of the best ways to prevent any further aging of your skin.

Know More About Your Skin Type

Skin is generally classified into one of four categories: normal, oily, dry, and combination, says Susan Van Dyke, MD, a dermatologist with Van Dyke Laser and Skin Care in Paradise Valley, Ariz. However, your skin type can change as you age, and other factors like genetics and even illness can play a part. “It’s multi-factorial,” Dr. Van Dyke says.

Normal skin, which has a good balance of moisture, small pores and an even tone, is the goal of most skin care regimens. Most people have normal skin, Van Dyke says, but to maintain its good condition, it’s important to minimize its exposure to the sun. A facial sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is ideal for preventing wrinkles and other sun damage.

“Put it by your toothpaste and use it,” Van Dyke says. “It doesn’t matter if it is snowing or raining — get in that habit so you always have it on. Incidental sun exposure is what gets you.”

Skin Care: Quieting Oily Skin

Oily skin is identified by an excess of oil (the technical term is sebum) on the face. Some people with oily skin begin to feel greasy only a few hours after washing. “A very oily person would feel the need to wash their face between noon and 5 p.m., because oil has built up during the day,” Van Dyke says. Oily skin can be an inherited trait, but it can also be caused by puberty, which causes oil glands to go into overdrive. You may also notice more oil on your “T-zone” because of all the oil glands in the forehead, nose, and chin.

People with oily skin generally don’t need a regular moisturizer, but sunscreen is still necessary to reduce exposure to UV rays. Choose an oil-free sunscreen, suggests Van Dyke says, one that’s specifically formulated for the face and are less likely to create blackheads and clog pores. “There are plenty of oil-free sunscreens available,” Van Dyke says. “Go to the drugstore, read labels, and try samples of different ones. There’s no excuse not to use sunscreen anymore.”

Skin Care: Soothing Dry Skin

Dry skin, on the other hand, suffers from a lack of natural moisture — there’s little oil to act as a surface barrier and lock in moisture. People with dry skinfeel a tightness about their face, and their skin is often irritated. Flaking is another symptom, but it’s not always a sure sign of dry skin. “You can have flaky skin and not be dry,” Van Dyke says. Sometimes, severely dry skin can become itchy and painful, leading to a condition called eczema.

Treatment of certain medical conditions can sometimes lead to dry skin. For example, breast cancer treatment may stop hormone production which could in turn affect the quality of your skin. “This will throw people into a menopausal situation at an early age,” Van Dyke says. “Suddenly, there’s no oil production.” Naturally-occurring menopause can have the same effect; most women begin to experience drier skin as they hit their late forties. To care for dry skin, use a gentle, soap-free cleanser, and moisturize adequately. A second application of moisturizer may be needed during the day, Van Dyke adds.

Skin Care: Balancing Combination Skin

Combination skin is a blend of both oily and dry skin. People with combination skin usually find that their oily skin is concentrated in the T-zone, while their cheeks remain dry. Combination skin can be influenced by genetics and, again, by puberty, when oil glands increase their production of sebum. Sometimes a variety of products are needed to treat combination skin. “You may have to treat different parts of the face slightly differently,” Van Dyke says. For example, a mild cleanser and moisturizer may be needed on the cheeks, while an anti-acneproduct with benzoyl peroxide might be necessary on the T-zone.

If you’re still not sure about your skin type or the best way to nourish it, consult adermatologist who can recommend an over-the-counter skin care regimen or offer you a physician’s line of products. Look for a doctor who is board-certified by the American Academy of Dermatology. “Your dermatologist is absolutely your best skin-care expert,” Van Dyke says.

More Information About Tender Loving Care for Dry Skin

Itchy, dry skin, also known as xerosis, is a distraction we can all do without. It’s uncomfortable and the cracked, flaky, red skin can be unattractive. If you scratch a lot, bacteria can invade those cracks and then you might even develop an infection.

The good news: You can manage dry skin even if you can’t control the environmental conditions that cause it, such as cold weather or central heating.

Skin Care for Dry Skin

First, cut back on washing. “Overwashing, particularly long, hot showers, is the number one reason for dry skin,” says Bruce Robinson, MD, Manhattan-based dermatologist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

His recommendations for people with dry skin? “Decrease their frequency of bathing, use a mild soap, and don’t soap the whole body every day. And, moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.”

With so many different types of moisturizers available, finding the right one for your needs can be a challenge — should you choose a lotion, a cream, or an ointment?

Dermatologist Susan C. Taylor, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in New York, recommends moisturizers that contain ceramides, natural lipid molecules that contain fatty acids. “Ceramides have a natural moisturizing factor. If you add ceramide to lotions and cleansers, you replace them in the skin. That’s the newest twist on moisturizers,” she explains.

Besides looking for a moisturizer that contains ceramides, Dr. Taylor, who is also a spokesperson for the AAD, says it’s wise to choose an ointment or cream over lotion. In fact, good old-fashioned petrolatum (petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline and similar store brands) can be the most effective choice.

“The oils in petrolatum trap moisture in the skin and provide a barrier from the outside environment,” Taylor says. “As long as you’re not acne-prone, I don’t have a problem with using petrolatum.”

Dry Skin Care in Winter

It can be particularly difficult to maintain soft, pliant skin in colder weather. Take these steps to keep your skin in good shape during the winter:

  • Take brief, lukewarm showers or baths. Pat dry and then immediately apply moisturizer.
  • Try using a humidifier to relieve the dryness in the air. Be sure to clean it regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid mold.
  • Protect your skin from the elements. Shield yourself from extreme cold and wind with layered clothing, hats, gloves, and warm shoes. Don’t forget to use petrolatum-based lip balm to avoid chapped lips.
  • Always use sunscreen. Regardless of the season or the weather, exposure to the sun can lead to not only dry skin, but also early agingand skin cancer.
  • Apply moisturizer several times a day if needed. Older adults need to pay even more attention to their skin to keep it supple, attractive, and comfortable. As part of the normal aging process, our skin tends to lose some natural oils, making us dryer, according to Taylor. “Make sure you apply a moisturizer several times a day, particularly as you mature,” she says.

Dry Skin Care: Other Considerations

In addition to what you should do, what not to do is also important when you have dry skin. There are products that you may want to steer clear of:

  • Any health and beauty aid that can be very drying to the skin, like regular, non-moisturizing face and body bar soaps. Unless you are otherwise directed by your doctor, look for a mild, pH balanced soap-free cleanser instead.
  • Acne-fighting chemicals, like benzoyl peroxide.

How your skin reacts, and what you should avoid, is very unique to each person. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist about your skin care regimen and see if any of the products you’re using contain ingredients that could be making your dry skin drier.

If you can’t seem to get a severe case of dry skin under control, and certainly if you develop an infection, see a dermatologist for an evaluation and treatment. A fresh look at how to care for your skin might give you the improvement you’re looking for.

How to Finding Skin Creams That Work

Walk through any drugstore or department store aisle, and you’ll see dozens of skin cream options that promise to erase wrinkles, eliminate dryness, and bring back that youthful glow. Some creams are highly specialized, while others focus on treating a specific issue.

Most skin creams with a rich texture will soothe dryness, but there are many that say they can reverse the signs of aging — and that’s where you need to be careful. Fortunately, some skin creams do what they promise and deliver that healthy, youthful glow everyone wants.

But with so many to choose from, how do you know that you’re picking the best cream for your needs? Before you start shopping, learn more about the ingredients that you should be looking for on the labels.

Common Skin Cream Ingredients

  • Retin-A and Renova. Some of the more popular beauty-counter skin creams include an ingredient called retinol, a form of Vitamin A. However, the only form of Vitamin A that has been proven to be effective as an anti-wrinkle agent is called tretinoin, and it’s only available as a prescription. It comes in two formulas: Retin-A andRenova.Scott Gerrish, MD, founder and CEO of Gerrish & Associates, PC, describes collagen as “the skin fibers that give your skin support and its plump, youthful look.” Retin-A and its sister formula Renova actually stimulate collagen growth, plus increase the thickness of your skin, skin-cell turnover, and the flow of blood to your skin.

    First used to treat acne more than 30 years ago, Retin-A was created by dermatologist Albert M. Kligman, MD, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Dr. Kligman’s older acne patients reported that their skin was not only clear, but more youthful after using it — an amazing side effect of the formula.

    Because Retin-A was aimed at people with oily skin and breakouts, it was drying to older complexions. Renova was developed in the 1990s to deliver the same anti-aging effects in a cream base without the side effect of dryness.

    A physician has to prescribe the right formula for your skin type and give you careful instructions for proper use. Either version can costs over $100 for a tube, but because only a pea-sized amount is used at a time, it lasts for months and, unlike some skin creams that cost hundreds more, it’s a skin care treatment that works. Dr. Gerrish adds this caution when using either Retin-A or Renova, “Make sure you use a sunscreen daily as it will make your skin more sensitive to the sun.”

  • Vitamin C. Skin creams treat and affect theepidermis, which is the thin, outer layer of the skin that protects the underlying dermis, where your body makes collagen. “Skin creams with a high level of vitamin C help your skin produce collagen and can make your skin look brighter,” says Gerrish. “But in order to penetrate the epidermis and affect the dermis, the vitamin C has to be formulated as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, or MAP.” Look for products with MAP on the label, such as Isomers Vitamin C Serum MAP + E.
  • Hydroxy acid formulas. Skin creams that contain one of the alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), or poly hydroxy acids (PHAs) offer exfoliation and moisturizing benefits. Says Gerrish, “The glycolic acid family, one of the AHAs, has been further studied and aside from its beneficial effects on the epidermis, with a high concentration of 25 percent, glycolic acids improve the quality of collagen and elastic fibers, improving the dermis and brightening your skin, too.” Over-the-counter concentrations are not quite that strong, but Glytone Rejuvenate Facial Cream 3 and Neostrata Face Cream Plus – AHA 15 are two to consider.
  • Peptides. The latest skin cream on the horizon packs peptides inside. “Collagen cannot penetrate the epidermis; however, peptides are small pieces of collagen that can penetrate it and reach the dermis, the layer where collagen is actually produced.” Peptide creams now available on the market contain Matrixyl or the Argireline molecule. “Another positive of Argireline is its relaxing effect on facial muscles, which reduces wrinkles,” states Gerrish. Faitox-25 contains both Matrixyl and Argireline, and Peptide 6 Wrinkle Cream has Argireline.

“All people can benefit from a good skin cream,” says Gerrish. To help you choose between over-the-counter options, he sums it up this way: “Those with dry skin benefit from the moisture-preserving Vitamin C creams. If your skin is oily, look toward the retinol and glycolic acid creams, which have a beneficial exfoliating and acne-preventing effect. Young people can also benefit from the Vitamin C creams, which preserve moisture in the skin. And everyone should wear a good sunscreen daily.”

A number of skin creams have been proven to help keep your skin looking younger. While none can totally eliminate the aging process, the most effective ones can slow it down and help you look your best.

More Information About Simple Acne Treatment Tips

If you have acne, you’re among more than 70 million people in the United States who have suffered from this skin condition at some time in their lives. It is so common that acne affects about 80 percent of Americans 20 to 30 years old. During the teenage years, acne is more common in boys than in girls, but in adults it’s more common in women.

Despite the fact that it’s so commonplace, there are many misconceptions about acne, says Guy Webster, MD, PhD, a clinical professor of dermatology at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and founder of the American Acne and Rosacea Society.
Getting to the Root of Acne

Whether you call it acne, pimples, or zits, in order to treat the condition, it’s important to understand the causes:

Clogged pores and bacteria: In your teens, the glands in the skin begin secreting sebum, an oily substance. This normally comes out through the pores, but in some people, sebum clogs up in the pores, allowing a bacterium, called P. acnes, to begin to grow.
Hormones: In your teen years, hormones start changing and affecting your body, including causing acne. This also happens during pregnancy, which explains why pregnant women or women having their periods often have acne breakouts. Hormones released during stressful times can also cause acne.
Genetics: You may be more likely to develop acne if your parents had acne when they were younger.
The Right Acne Treatment

There are many ways to take care of acne, depending on what causes it and how bad it is. Moderate and severe acne usually needs acne treatment recommended by a doctor, but mild acne, blackheads, whiteheads, and a few pimples can usually be treated at home.

Dr. Webster says one big misconception is that acne is caused by dirty skin. “The goal is not to scrub acne away,” he says. “If you scrub, you’re taking off skin, and there’s a reason for the skin being there.” Skin is a protective barrier.

Here are some tips that Webster shares with people who have acne:

Wash gently; don’t scrub.
Use a gentle soap to wash your face.
Wash with your hands, not a washcloth or “scrubby.”
Use a 5 percent benzoyl peroxide product.
Treat your whole face — don’t “spot treat.” This way, you’re treating pimples still under the skin but not yet visible.
And what should you stay away from?

Facial scrubs of any kind.
“Face puffs” or abrasive pads.
Expensive cosmetic regimens that people try to sell you.
Acne Treatment: Other Tips

Other tips to keep acne from getting worse:

If you’re a male, be careful shaving.
Don’t pick or scratch at pimples.
Avoid the sun. While many people feel that sun exposure makes their acne better, this is not always so. The rays can also cause other unwanted issues, such as premature aging and skin cancer.
When Should I See a Doctor for Acne Treatment?

According to Webster, if the pimples are leaving scars or if your treatment isn’t working, then it’s time to see a family doctor or dermatologist.

And while acne is a bummer, it doesn’t have to take over your life; take action and take control of your skin.