If it seems like your skin is parched from December through March, it’s not your imagination. “Dry skin is worse in the winter, when temperatures and humidity levels are lower and moisture in your skin evaporates into the air,” says New York City dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD. There are easy ways to keep flaking at bay…and treat it if the weather does get the best of you.
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For your face
Your face is always exposed to the elements. Couple that with using drying anti-aging or antiacne ingredients, and you can end up with a compromised complexion.
Prevention plan: “Swap cleansers with active ingredients for hydrating, soap-free options,” advises Emily Arch, MD, a dermatologist at Dermatology + Aesthetics in Chicago. We like SkinCeuticals Soothing Cleanser ($34; dermstore.com).
Top treatment: “Once you have flaking, the natural inclination is to scrub it off, but that can make matters worse,” warns Dr. Arch. Instead, amp up your hydration game. In the morning, use a hyaluronic acid–based serum, like Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Booster ($59; amazon.com). At night, use a rich face cream. Try PCA Skin HydraLuxe Intensive Hydration ($147; dermstore.com).
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For your scalp
Surprise: Dandruff is caused by a yeast, not just dry skin.
Prevention plan: Use a shampoo with zinc pyrithione two or three times a week to help keep scale-causing yeast from reproducing and flakes from forming, says Michelle Hanjani Galant, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Stanford University. Try Dove Dermacare Scalp Dryness & Itch Relief Anti-Dandruff Shampoo ($6; target.com).
Top treatment: Shampoos with salicylic acid “dissolve the dead cells, helping to break up flakes,” says Dr. Arch. Lather up, then let it sit on your scalp for two to five minutes. Try Aveda Invati Advanced Exfoliating Shampoo ($30; nordstrom.com).
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For your body
Fewer oil glands on your body make it drier than your face.
Prevention plan: Spend less time in the shower, keep the water lukewarm, and cut back on sudsing. “The only places on your body you need to use soap daily are your groin and underarms,” says Dr. Schultz. When you do wash your body, use a moisturizing cleanser, like CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash ($11; amazon.com), then apply lotion.
Top treatment: Slather on a lotion that contains chemical exfoliants, like AmLactin Daily Moisturizing Lotion ($13; target.com). Layer on a thick body cream; we like La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Moisturizing Cream ($20; dermstore.com). Then put on a tight pair of PJs to lock it in.
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For your lips
Our instinct to lick lips when they’re chapped doesn’t help the situation; saliva dissolves healthy cells on the lips, causing more dryness.
Prevention plan: Reapply your lip balm. Good—now reapply it again. "Your lips should be so constantly coated that at any given time if you kissed a tissue, you’d leave a lip print," says Dr. Arch. Petrolatum, lanolin, and beeswax are all good ingredients, she says. They act like a barrier against the elements so that everything slides over the coating. Try Lano Lips 101 Ointment ($17; nordstrom.com).
Top treatment: Once your pout is chapped, lip balm alone won’t cut it. Layer a plain moisturizer underneath balm. Get rid of flakes using a creamy cleanser and washcloth to gently rub them off. Skip lip scrubs to avoid irritation.
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For your feet
The thick skin on the bottom of your feet is drier in general, and excess pressure from standing or walking for long periods of time makes it more prone to cracking.
Prevention plan: Soak your feet in warm water for a few minutes, then slather on a foot cream with exfoliating urea, like Flexitol Heel Balm ($14; amazon.com). Not only does this moisturize, but the chemical exfoliant also keeps dry skin from building up.
Top treatment: Slough off dead skin with a pumice stone, or Dr. Arch’s pick, the Amopé Pedi Perfect Electronic Foot File Extra Coarse ($30; amazon.com). Use either one on dry feet only, since it’s easy to go too deep and do damage on wet skin. Do this weekly, but cover your tootsies in a thick foot cream and socks every night.