Get Silky, Smooth Skin All Winter Long
Soften up all over
Still treating your skin and hair the same way you did last winter—and dealing with all the same concerns? (You know: scaly skin, chapped lips, dried-out strands.) It’s time to tweak your routine and put an end to cold-weather beauty problems for good.
Here, top dermatologists let us in on their favorite tricks—the ones they actually use themselves.
Smooth your face
Try a waterless wash
"If your skin is dehydrated, rather than splash water on your face every day, use a soap-free cleanser," suggests Jeannette Graf, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "Apply to dry skin, then wipe off with a soft cloth," she says.
Try a mask for your lips
A facial mask can actually do double duty on your lips. "A 10-minute mask packed with dead sea salt is a great option, as the minerals do a good job of holding in moisture," says Francesca Fusco, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.
Rinse it off, or remove with a damp washcloth, for smooth, soft lips—stat.
Before applying lip balm, moisten lips with cool water, then apply the balm to seal in moisture. "Doing so makes the top layer of your skin more permeable and allows the products to lock in hydration," says Marina Peredo, MD, founder of Spatique Medical Spa in Smithtown, New York. "I do it twice a day and it works!"
Winterize your anti-agers
"Prescription and over-the-counter retinoid products can be extra-drying on the skin during the colder months," says Brooke Jackson, MD, medical director of the Skin Wellness Center in Chicago.
Her easy Rx: Mix a pea-size amount of your retinoid in with your face moisturizer. "You’ll get the benefit of the retinoid with minimal irritation," she says.
And keep it simple, she adds: "Choose a plain moisturizer that doesn’t have additional anti-aging ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids or vitamin C."
Take a toner break
Unless your skin is oily, toner is a skippable step this season. "Toners often have an alcohol base and can strip skin of its natural oils," says Lorien Sites, MD, a dermatologist in Nashville. But if you must, an alcohol-free toner is a good option.
Pack the sunscreen
A surprising cause of winter flakes: sunburn. "Some of the worst sunburns I see are on people who travel to warm climates in winter," says Jason Reichenberg, MD, director of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern–Austin.
Use a moisturizer that contains SPF 30. "It treats dry skin and protects from the sun," Dr. Reichenberg explains.
Save your skin—with a scarf
Winter winds can do a number on your face. "I see a huge increase in broken blood vessels during the winter," says Ellen Marmur, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. The solution is simple: "Cover up your face with a scarf and sunglasses too," Dr. Marmur says.
Cut back on sugary foods
Doesn’t it seem like when the temperature goes down, our cravings for sugary foods go up? Turns out loading up on these simple carbs (cake, muffins, white bread) really can trigger breakouts.
"A diet high in refined carbs leads to increased levels of insulin, which raises inflammation in the body and ultimately the skin," says Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C.
So do your skin (and waist!) a favor and go easy on the sugary stuff!
Soften your body
Load up on fish
"Oily fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel are high in 0mega-3 fatty acids, which help relieve dry, itchy skin," says Jessica Wu, MD, a dermatologist in Los Angeles and author of Feed Your Face.
Another way to get the benefits: fish oil capsules. One study found that people with eczema who took fish oil capsules containing DHA—a specific type of fatty acid—had a nearly 20% improvement in symptoms.
Squeeze in some pre-shower prep
When it comes to moisturizing your body, it’s not just what you slather on, but when you do it. "Applying lotion to dry skin before you shower will prevent the drying effect of soap and hot water. The more, the better," says Alex Khadavi, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Look for a hydrator with ceramides or hyaluronic acid to help skin retain moisture, and reapply post-shower. He recommends CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($15; drugstores). "It helps repair the skin’s barrier and brings moisture back in."
Keep your razor in rotation
"One gentle way to remove dead skin on your legs is by shaving!" says Ranella Hirsch, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine.
"It not only removes hair, but by exfoliating in the process, it allows lotions to penetrate better."
Slather on silicone
"My hands became dry and chapped my first winter living in Colorado," says Erin Welch, MD, a dermatologist in Denver. "Another derm suggested I try a silicone-based lotion, as products containing silicone stay on the skin longer between washings. Now I go through several bottles in winter!"
Pass on the bubbly
"Avoid sudsy soaps and body washes," says Jonith Breadon, MD, a dermatologist in Chicago. "Lots of bubbles mean a higher concentration of detergents and surfactants, which dissolve the oil on your skin and dry you out."
Try Dr. Breadon’s trick instead: "Wet a washcloth, apply a fragrance-free body lotion to it, and wipe yourself down in the shower. You’ll get clean, and it’ll leave a hydrating residue. Use a gentle soap on areas with a lot of sweat glands such as your underarms and groin."
Shop the drugstore
Brutal winter weather can trigger annoying red, scaly patches on your body, especially if you’re eczema-prone. To treat a mild flare-up, try an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.
"It decreases the immune response and inhibits inflammation. Apply a thin layer two to three times a day," says Kenneth Beer, MD, a dermatologist in Palm Beach, Florida.
"But don’t rub vigorously because you can end up irritating skin more."
Repair your hair
Do damage control
Two words: Avocado oil."It penetrates the cuticle and helps lock in moisture,"says Dina Strachan, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York University.
Can’t get to Whole Foods?
Fix the flakes
If an itchy scalp forces youto switch to a dandruff-fighting shampoo, keep hair shiny with this trick: "Use the dandruff shampoo just on the scalp, then apply a moisturizing shampoo on the rest of your hair," says Amy McMichael, MD, a professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
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