Keeping our skin healthy and looking its best is a challenge in colder temperatures and lower humidity. Dry, chapped faces, parched lips and coarse hands are less-than-desirable side effects of the fall and winter seasons.
Autumn is the perfect time to adjust skin care routines, plan ahead and ready our skin for the more brutal months ahead. Here are smart, healthy tips from board certified dermatologists and other skin care experts.
1: Use Heavier Products for More Protection
Just as we opt for heavier winter clothing to protect our bodies, changing to heavier skin care products for the skin on our face is an easy change to make, especially for this very exposed area of our body.
“Just as you switch to a heavier coat, swap lighter skin care formulas like serums and gels for thicker lotions and creams,” said Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a RealSelf advisor in Omaha, Nebraska.
2: Shield the Skin from the Elements
“I see literally hundreds of women in my practice who develop skin sensitivity and a facial rash after getting too much wind exposure in winter,” said Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, a dermatologist with Capital Skin Laser in Chevy Chase, Maryland. “The solution is to cover your face up to your eyes with a scarf when walking around outside in the winter.”
Minimizing exposure to harsh elements can also keep rosacea under control, according to Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board certified dermatologic surgeon with Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York.
3: Avoid Products with Drying Agents
Products that contain ethanol dry out the skin. Instead, experts advise we use shea butter, as it contains fatty acids and vitamins that moisturize and keep our skin supple.
Lactic acid is another recommendation because of its exfoliation properties and its gentleness on sensitive skin. In the case of rosacea inflammation, ask your dermatologist for remedies such as Soolantra (ivermectin) Cream, 1 percent, or Mirvaso (brimonidine) topical gel, 0.33 percent.
4: Quit Licking Our Lips and Add Balm Instead
Other places that cold air chaps us? If we want a quick fix for our lips, we need to quit licking them, for starters. While doctors say the wind and cold temperatures may cause chapped lips, often they are perpetually chapped due to licking them.
The answer is to layer on the lip balm, especially balm that contains diethicone and petrolatum.
5: Use Gentle Products on Hands and Nails
More than other parts of our body, our hands may reveal just how much we’re lacking moisture in the colder weather.
“People dry out their hands terribly in the winter because they wash them constantly or use a hand sanitizer to prevent getting a cold,” Tanzi said.
Use gentle products to wash your hands during the day. At night, smear on Vaseline or a thick hand cream and then cover with cotton gloves. For fingernails that become dry and brittle, nourishing cuticle creams help avoid nail splitting or possible infections.
“By drinking more water, we ensure that all our organs have enough water to function properly.”
6: Keep Feet Smooth and Hydrated
And our feet? “Most women will slack off from getting regular pedicures and the natural exfoliating properties of walking around on the beach are not sloughing off the dead skin,” Tanzi told LifeZette. She recommends keeping the heel skin from getting too thick, as skin fissures can be painful and become an entry point for bacteria.
7: Drink More Water
We’ve heard this before, but we need to keep ourselves well hydrated, especially during the winter months.
“When the body is dehydrated, it will distribute water to other organs before it sends any to the skin,” Schlessinger said. “By drinking more water, we ensure that all our organs have enough water to function properly.”
Alcohol, he noted, further dehydrates the body, so follow every drink or cocktail with a full glass of water.
8: Beware of Long, Hot Showers
The hotter the water, the more drying for the skin, especially when eczema or psoriasis is present.
“Hot water can strip the skin of its natural oils,” Schlessinger told LifeZette. “If hot showers are taken on a regular basis, dry patches of skin can feel scaly or start to crack.”
As an alternative, take a lukewarm shower and keep it to 10 minutes or less. Pat the skin dry rather than rubbing it with a towel. Then, slather on moisturizer to lock in the moisture. A humid bathroom can also activate humectants to help pull moisture into your skin.
9: Add Oils to Our Daily Routine
Oil maybe the opposite of water, but incorporating both into our daily skin care routine can be beneficial.
“Many people are confused about how to use oils properly on the skin,” said Trevor Cates, a naturopathic physician in Park City, Utah. But “you can incorporate these oils into your daily routine easily and discover how clear, smooth and ageless you skin can appear.”
Unlike how cream or moisturizer is rubbed or massaged, oils must be patted to the skin to ensure absorption of essential nutrients. Use two to four drops on the palms of your hands before rubbing them together and pressing the oil into the face and neck, Cates said. Some winter oil suggestions include Virgin Sea Buckthorn Oil with omega-7 and vitamins A and E for evening skin tone and texture; and cranberry seed oil with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for skin hydration.
10: If All Else Fails, Remember the Letter ‘H’
Relief can come from both hydrocortisone and a humidifier. Dry, itchy and chapped skin can be saved with 1 percent hydrocortisone, which has chemical properties to sooth irritation and heal skin that is inflamed or chapped.
And Schlessinger encourages his patients to use a humidifier, as it can increase moisture in the air and in our skin. Use a portable one and remember to change the water once a week to avoid bacteria growth.