Ask A Derm, Blog

10 Winter Skin Care Tips to “Sleigh” the Season

Winter is upon us! For the most part, winter can be a time of fun and enjoyment. It brings in a new year, holiday celebrations with friends and family, and unique seasonal activities. If you live in an area that sees tangible seasonal changes – from temperature drops and snowfall that also leads to skiing, sledding, and cozy nights by the fire – then you also know how winter conditions can wreak havoc on your skin. Don’t fret! We’ve got your back with 10 winter skin care tips to help you stay “sleigh”-ing all season long.

The biggest skin problem, and common thread through our tips, is how the cold, dry winter air often leads to dry, irritated skin. The majority of our tips involve ways to more efficiently retain moisture and prevent conditions that may counteract your efforts.

1. Lower the thermostat

We’re all quick to turn up the heat at the first sign of winter’s breath. And it’s understandable! What’s better than the long walk from a freezing, windy street except stepping through your doorstep into a toasty, cozy living space? But be mindful of how warm you’re keeping it. High temperatures and central heat make the air in your home dry. And since you’ll most likely be spending more time indoors during winter, it’s imperative to limit your skin’s exposure to dry air.

Now, we’re not suggesting you bundle up on the couch, just limit the time you keep the heat on high. Otherwise, keep it at a comfortable 68-72 degrees. If you’re insistent on high utility bills and a constant roaring fire, there are other ways to add moisture to the air.

2. Invest in a humidifier

Humidifiers are a simple, effective way to add moisture to the air. You’ve probably used them to relieve sinus pressure or congestion and ease sore throats. But they’re great in the winter time to alleviate dry skin and cracked lips. And with so many types and sizes of humidifiers available, they’re more accessible than ever.

Use portable humidifiers to take with you throughout the house or invest in larger ones for the rooms you spend the most time in – like your bedroom or living room areas. There are even central humidifiers that can be built directly into the air conditioning or heating unit of your home.

3. The right winter clothes

Woman standing under streetlamp in snowfall.When you do head outside, make sure you’re properly dressed. The best way to avoid contact with dry, cold winter air is to cover and protect your skin! Wear gloves, scarves, and in extreme cases even masks to combat sharp winds. But be mindful of the materials these clothes are made from. That old, cozy sweater from grandma might be warm, but it might irritate your skin just as much as the cold outside air. Avoid direct skin contact with wool and other rough clothing and plan on soft, light layers.

Furthermore, winter conditions can also lead to damp clothing. Make sure jackets are properly insulated and water proof. Invest in a pair of reliable winter boots to keep your socks and feet dry. Staying in cold, wet clothes for too long can be just as damaging to your skin.

4. Use sunscreen

Sometimes we tend to forget how potent the sun can be in winter. Even though its warmth and light on grey days is often a welcome sign, it can still be harmful to your skin. Long exposure to the sun (like a ski day on the mountain) combined with glare from the snow, can really be irritating. Make sure to still use sunscreen regularly, combined with an SPF chapstick. After all, unless you’re escaping the season on the beach, no one wants a winter sun burn.

5. Moisturize frequently

This seems like a no-brainer. When your skin is dry, apply moisturizer. But, since the cold, dry winter air makes the moisture on skin evaporate rapidly, it’s even more important to make sure solid moisturizing habits are in place. Especially using oil-based, ointment moisturizers over those that are water-based. Oil-based ointments help create more of a protective layer than lotion, helping the skin to retain moisture.

Apply directly after bathing or showering for best results and use frequently on your hands throughout the day. At least a second, full application at some point in the day will also help. However, avoid using any products that are heavily fragranced as they may further irritate your skin during winter.

6. Modify facial skin care routine

When choosing a moisturizer it’s important to note that when used on the face, thicker ointments may actually clog your pores. In this sense you’ll most likely be exfoliating less than you normally would. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to git rid of dead skin cells on your face during the winter. Simply modifying your routine based on your own individual skin health will help you decide how often to exfoliate.

Finding the right exfoliating mask for the season, used in tandem with effective face washes and moisturizers will keep your face smooth and healthy.

7. Limit shower time and temperature

Just like the thermostat dial, some self-control with water temperature is a major key to your skin health during winter. As tempting as it is to run inside from the snow and hop into a piping hot shower, the high temperatures can actually create cracks in the surface of your skin. Especially if you’re not moisturizing regularly. Even when you’re just washing your hands. Group of people sitting around a bonfire.

Hot water strips oil from the skin, and any cracks in the skin leave nerves exposed to the air. Think itchy, red skin that cuts easily. As a general rule of thumb: limit showers to max ten minutes and use warm water with regular moisturizing. Blot your skin dry and don’t leave the house with damp skin, which will lead to easier and more frequent chapping.

8. Choose the right soap

While we’re on the subject of bathing, choosing the right soap during winter will make all the difference as well. Just like moisturizers, soaps that are heavy in fragrance are probably best avoided. The wrong ingredients will actually leave your skin more dry. Avoid ingredients like salicylic and glycolic acid. Look for gentle, unscented, hydrating cleansers.

9. Avoid toxins, irritants, and allergens

Any pre-existing skin conditions will only be more vulnerable during the winter. If you suffer from ailments like eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis, winter conditions make them a bit more finicky and increase the risk of flare ups. Be aware of your health and anything that might irritate any conditions more. You’ll need to consider all of the above suggestions in mind with how it will affect your skin. Allergens in winter clothing? Specific ingredients in moisturizers or cleansers? Be aware of what you’re using, and when in doubt go with the simplest route.

10. Eat right, stay hydrated

So many normal healthy lifestyle choices also affect our skin health. Since retaining moisture is such a common theme throughout our winter skin care tips, it only makes sense that proper hydration falls into the same category. Hot coffee, tea, and especially cocoa are great winter treats, but they’re not the best for keeping you hydrated. Additionally, winter celebrations with alcohol aren’t exactly helping in that department either.

Stay vigilant and make sure you’re consuming enough water every day. Try warm water with lemon if you’re still craving a warm treat. Seek out foods that are high in water content. Fruits like apples, oranges, watermelon and vegetables like carrots, celery, and tomatoes are great choices year-round, but especially in the winter. The holidays can be tempting with sweet and savory treats, but maintaining a healthy diet and regular hydration will only help maximize your other skincare efforts.

Bonus Tip: Seek a specialist

When is the last time you visited your dermatologist? Everyone is unique. What works for you and your skin might not even make a dent in someone else’s routine. The best path towards better understanding your own skin care needs, especially during the winter, starts with annual visits to your dermatologist. Reach out to us at the Dermatology Center of Acadiana today and schedule a consultation!