Cold winter air makes us do bad things to our skin. We crank up the heat. We take long, hot showers to thaw our chilled bones. We stay covered up in heavy, itchy wool clothes. What's so bad about all these totally natural reactions to dipping temperatures? They all dry out our skin, causing it to look dull and scaly – and feel tight and itchy.
Our skin secretes oils that form a protective layer to hold in moisture, which can help make up for our bad winter habits. But we sabotage this effort by taking long, hot showers that strip away the oils and allow the moisture to evaporate. The cold winter air itself can also dry out our skin.
We can't make the cold air go away, but we can control how well we treat our skin. Here are some tips and techniques:
- Take fewer showers and baths, and lower the temperature of the water. This will allow those protective oils to do their job for our skin.
- Apply moisturizer to your skin more often, especially immediately after a bath or shower, since moisturizers can help lock moisture into your skin.
- Swap harsh soap or detergent-based cleansers for more gentle cleansers. Avoid potentially irritating ingredients, like fragrance, which can further dry out the skin.
- Drink plenty of water. It's easy to forget to drink water when you're not hot and sweaty, but hydration is just as important in winter as in summer. For your skin, it's good to hydrate from within.
- Exfoliate your skin using a loofah to slough off dead, dry skin. When skin cells do not shed, they can build up and cause acne or make your skin appear dull.
- And don't forget your feet! Snuggled into socks and stuffed into boots, your feet stay warm but the skin may be neglected. Scrub your feet with a pumice stone to remove dry, dead skin. Or do like Victoria Beckham does at night – coat your feet in rich, smoothing lotions and then go to bed with your tootsies wrapped in warm cotton socks to hold in the moisture.
- Use sunscreen with at least SPF 30. The sun may not feel as warm, but it's still as damaging to your skin as ever.
- Consider using a humidifier in your home to keep the air moist. And if possible, use heaters less frequently.
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