Experts Answer Your Top 8 Questions About Caring for Dry Winter Skin
It's the ultimate beauty smackdown: your looks against the elements. Come out on top with these derm strategies.
Getty Images My face is so flaky. What should I do?
Blowing your nose a hundred times. Battling arctic winds. Winter conditions can irritate your skin big time and cause flakiness. "We call it 'irritant contact dermatitis,' and anything that aggravates skin can bring it on," says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. The obviousÂ—but keyÂ—solution is to moisturize: Use a rich cream that contains a humectant like glycerin or hyaluronic acid. For scaly patches, try a balm with emollient shea butter or argan oil, like Cosmedix Rescue + Intense Hydrating Balm & Mask ($59; amazon.com).
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What's with the bright red blotches on my face and neck?
Those spots are a sign that you're sensitive to cold. You could have rosaceaÂ—a flushing skin conditionÂ—but the capillaries in your skin may just dilate when exposed to triggers like dry heat or temperatures. Try taking cooler showers and using fragrance-free products, says Dr. Gohara. Thermal mists that contain the inflammation-busting mineral selenium can help when used on affected areas, as can a cold compress on the back of your neck.
What are those tiny red lines around my nose?
The technical term: telangiectasias. But we know them as dilated capillaries (some people say they're "broken" capillaries, but they're not). Exposure to cold, biting winds makes the vessels under the skin expand and become visible. You may see them on your cheeks and chin, too. The hard truth is that they won't totally go away without a laser treatment (you'll need three to six sessions, each $300 and up). The treatment heats the capillaries to permanently close them. To ease inflammation without a trip to the derm, use products with soothing ingredients like chamomile, calendula, and white tea. We like L'Occitane Shea Butter Smoothing Fluid ($49; usa.loccitane.com).
I have little red bumps on my upper arms that get worse in winter. Help!
The delightful chicken skin! Those raised spots develop when dead cells build up within the hair follicles, forming hard little plugs, explains Dr. Gohara. You can't get rid of them, but you can improve their appearance: Start with soap-free wash in the shower, then apply a body lotion with alpha hydroxy acids to gently smooth the skin's texture. Our pick: AmLactin Moisturizing Body Lotion ($21; amazon.com).
Next Page:Â What are those tiny white dots under my eyes? [ pagebreak ]
Getty ImagesWhat are those tiny white dots under my eyes?
Those little lumps are not acne (so stop trying to squeeze them!). In fact, they're likely miniature cysts, called milia, which are often caused by heavy creams or other occlusive products used under the eyes, says Doris Day, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Solution: Dab a gentle chemical exfoliator over the area (avoiding eyes); it will help shed skin, which may coax out the cysts. Try Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($28; amazon.com).
My scalp is flaky. Do I have dandruff?
It sounds that way. Dry scalp alone may feel tight or itchy, but actual flakes signal dandruff. The likely culprit: "an overgrowth of yeast on the skin," says Dr. Gohara. The easiest remedy is to switch to an over-the-counter shampoo with exfoliating coal tar or salicylic acid, says Jeanine Downie, MD, a dermatologist in Montclair, N.J. Try Glytone Kertyol P.S.O. Shampoo ($29; amazon.com), which contains salicylic acid and sulfur. If dandruff doesn't improve after about four weeks, move on to a prescription shampoo.
My legs are crazy itchy. What's the deal?
The itch may be abnormally intense, but the culprit is pretty ordinary: dry skin. "When the air is dry, your skin doesn't retain moisture as usual," notes Dr. Downie, and you may see a "cracked, riverbed appearance." To quell the itch, switch to a soap-free body wash (it won't strip skin's natural moisture) and apply a cream with repairing ceramides to damp skin post-shower. Also smart: Shave in the shower after slathering on a moisturizing cream, such as Whish Blue Agave Shave Cream ($26; birchbox.com), to slough off dead skin cells, which can prevent moisture from getting in.
Ouch! My heels are cracked. What do I do?
Keep feet hydrated: "Petroleum jelly is your best fix," says Dr. Downie, as it locks in moisture. Try Vaseline Deep Moisture Jelly Cream ($7; amazon.com). To get rid of cracks, use a pumice or foot file, such as the Amope Pedi Perfect Foot File with Diamond Crystals ($37; walmart.com), on dry skin several times a week. Dry heels, healed!
Surprising Skin Enemies
The same things that keep you warm and cozy this season could also turn your skin red and itchy.
Wool clothing: Even if you aren't allergic to wool, you may still be hypersensitive to the fiber. Wear a layer underneath to shield your skin, or upgrade to cashmere in the name of health.
Space heaters: These devices can bring on a condition called erythema ab igne, spots of redness caused by exposure to radiant heat. Keep a generous distance between yourself and your heater.
Happy hour: It's the time of year to sip hot toddies, but doing so can bring on flushing and rednessÂ—and, over time, dry skin, since alcohol dehydrates you. Drink in moderation and have a glass of water between rounds.Boost your defenses
For skin that's immune to the effects of icy temps, consider applying bacteriaÂ—the good kind. "Probiotics strengthen the skin barrier, helping to lock in moisture," says Health Contributing Medical Editor Roshini Rajapaksa, MD. They've also been shown to calm inflammation and reduce redness. Find them in her skin-care line Tula. Tule Hydrating Day & Night Cream ($52; qvc.com).