Friday, December 19, 2014

Five Tips to Combat Dry Winter Skin

By Michelle Tarbox, MD
Assistant Professor of Dermatology 
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

As the temperatures drop and the heaters go on, the indoor air gets dehydrated, and your skin loses moisture from the environment. Think of it this way: Water likes to move downhill, even on a microscopic level. So when the level of moisture in the air drops due to the heating process, the dry air practically sucks the water out of your skin.

To balance out the loss of moisture, you can take some steps to repair and replenish your skins. Here are the five tips to help you combat dry winter skin.

  1. Cleanse Carefully. Healthy winter skin starts with careful cleansing. The wrong cleanser can strip your skin of its natural oils and make it more vulnerable to the dry winter air. Add to that the increased need for hand washing in winter due to the cold and flu season coupled with the possibility of more time in the kitchen cooking up holiday treats and meals, and you’ve literally got a difficult situation on your hands. Choose a gentle cleanser with skin-healthy ingredients such as jojoba oil or avocado oil. Avoid harsh cleansing agents such as sodium laureth (or lauryl) sulfate, and opt for more gentle cleansers such as glycerin. 
  2. Moisturize More. As the name suggests, moisturizers replenish moisture lost from the skin. I like products that contain ceramides, which are the lipid (fat) that skin makes to moisturize itself. Fats and oils are actually important for skin health, but as with dietary fats, choosing the right kind is key. Look for moisturizers that are “noncomedogenic” or nonpore clogging such as avocado oil, almond oil, mineral oil, or primrose oil.   
  3. Slather the Sunscreen. The sun still shines in the wintertime. Many people forget to use sunscreen during the cold winter months; however, as cold and overcast as it may be, UV radiation is still reaching the earth. Apply a good broad-spectrum sunscreen to all exposed skin surfaces at least 30 minutes prior to outdoor sun exposure. 
  4. Exfoliate Expertly. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells and improves how well skin can absorb moisturizers; however, it’s important not to overdo it. A gentle touch is the key to winter skin care, and this definitely goes for exfoliation. Dry winter skin responds well to gentle exfoliation including moisturizers with mild acids such as lactic acid or salicylic acid. It is a good idea to alternate these exfoliating moisturizers with your regular moisturizer to avoid irritation. 
  5. Baby Your Bathtime. It’s tempting to crank up the water temperature during your showers or baths during the cold winter months, but this can be counterproductive to your skin health. A good rule of thumb is to bathe yourself in temperatures you would use for a baby’s skin. Similar to harsh cleansers, very hot water can strip your skin of its natural oils and make it more vulnerable to dehydration. A nice, short, warm bath is your skin’s best bet for healthy winter skin. 

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