Winter Skin Care

By: Vivacare - Dr. Mark Becker

Winter Skin Care

The dry air of winter, both indoor and outside, can make it difficult to prevent skin from becoming dry, chapped, and itchy.

Harsh wind, low humidity, and indoor heating are common factors that sap moisture from the skin. During winter, it’s especially important to protect your skin.

The following winter skin care tips may be helpful for preventing dry skin:

1) Moisturize

If you don’t normally apply a moisturizer to your skin, now may be the time to get in the habit. If you use a moisturizer but find that you skin is still dry and cracked, you may benefit from applying the moisturizer more frequently. You may also want to change to a more effective moisturizer. In general, ointments are more moisturizing than creams, and creams are more moisturizing than lotions.

Moisturizer Examples:

  • Ointments: Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, Aquaphor
  • Creams: Original Eucerin Cream, Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream, Vaseline Cream, Eutra/Elta Neutrogena Hand Cream
  • Lotions: Vaseline Intensive Care, Lubriderm, Curel

Before going outside, apply a heavy layer of moisturizer to your face, hands, and any other exposed area.

Also remember to moisturize your skin immediately after bathing, ideally within three minutes. Pat-dry your skin to keep water in, and then apply moisturizer immediately to prevent water evaporation.

2) Avoid Hot Showers

A hot shower or bath can be tempting during the cold winter months, but the hot water can break down the skin’s natural moisturizing lipids, which keep moisture in and protect skin against drying conditions. Skip the hot shower in favor of a shorter, warm one; afterward, pat skin dry and apply a super-emollient lotion right away.

3) Use a Humidifier

Indoor central heating, space heaters, and other methods to keep us warm during the winter can make the air very dry, robbing your skin and sinuses of moisture. Even an inexpensive humidifier from the drug store (one placed in each room of the home) can make a big difference and restore important moisture to the air.

4) Protect Your Hands

Remember to keep the skin on your hands protected as well. Apply lotions and ointments to your hands frequently, especially after handwashing. Wear gloves to protect them from the cold, dry air, but avoid leaving wet gloves on for very long.

5) Dress in Layers

Excessive sweating and overheating is a common trigger of winter itch. Wearing layers of clothing allows you to add or remove items to keep your body heat in a comfortable range. Cotton fabrics worn next to your skin are not as effective for staying warm, but are gentler on the skin.

6) Examine Your Skin Care Products

Take inventory of the products in your skin-care routine.

  • Products that contain tretinoin may make the skin more susceptible to sunburn.
  • If any of your skin products contain strong sloughing agents (such as alpha-hydroxy acids), you may want to switch to a gentler product to avoid exacerbating dry skin during wintertime (but do exfoliate gently, to increase how much moisturizer your skin will absorb).
  • Winter is also a good time to avoid harsh chemical peels and masks, as well as alcohol-based products. Switch to mild cleansers, alcohol-free toners, and hydrating masks.

7) Don’t Forget About Sun Protection

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be just as damaging during the winter months as they are during hotter weather, so remember to minimize your skin’s sun exposure. Doing so is easier in the winter, because cold-weather clothing generally covers up most skin, but don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the face or use cosmetics that contain a sunscreen. SPF 15 should be the minimum amount of sun protection, but choose a higher SPF for outdoor sports like snowboarding or skiing, where the sun reflects off the white surface of the snow. Be sure to cover your lips with a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen. If your hands are exposed, cover them with a moisturizing sunscreen as well.