During winter, cold temperatures, biting winds, low humidity
and indoor heating can cause dry, itchy, cracked skin and chapped
lips and exacerbate conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and seborrhea.
But there are some simple steps you can take to protect your
skin from winter's harsh conditions, says dermatologist Dr. Deborah
A. Scott, director of the Center for Laser Dermatology and Skin
Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston.
Scott recommends that you:
- Stay hydrated. Drinking adequate amounts of water
benefits your overall health and helps hydrate your skin from
within. You should try to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses
of water a day.
- Keep showers short and warm. Long, hot showers strip
natural oils from your skin. You should spend no more than 10
minutes in the shower and keep the water temperature below 90
- Use mild skin care products. The best choices are
creams, ointments and lotions that are formulated for sensitive
skin and don't contain alcohol. Do not use deodorant or antibacterial
soaps, or soaps or shampoos with skin irritants such as fragrances
and lauryl sulfates.
- Moisturize daily. Immediately after a shower, pat
skin dry (do not rub) and apply moisturizer to help trap moisture
in the outer layers of your skin. Carry a travel-size container
of lotion with you so you can replenish your skin moisture throughout
- Take care when exfoliating. While gentle exfoliation
can help eliminate the buildup of dead skin cells, too much
exfoliation can irritate skin and dry it out. Exfoliate once
a week in moderation.
- Consider using a humidifier in your home. Central
heating systems can dry indoor air to as low as 10 percent humidity.
To counter this, place a humidifier in the room in which you
spend the most time and aim for moisture levels of 30 percent
to 50 percent humidity.
- Wear sunscreen. Apply SPF 15 in the winter and use
a higher SPF sunscreen if you're vacationing on the slopes or
at the beach.
- Protect your lips. Lips can be especially prone
to dryness because the skin there does not have oil glands.
Do not lick your lips to hydrate them. Instead, use a petroleum-
or beeswax-based lip balm.