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.