Most people suffer with winter dryness and itch to a greater or lesser degree. It’s the combination of the cold weather outside and dry heat inside that affects the skin. The following tips, adapted from my book, Skin Rules, published by St. Martin’s Press can help.
Start coating your skin with a protective cream, lotion or oil now, before dry patches start to appear. There are some extremely effective and inexpensive products that work just as well as the pricey ones. I always tell my patients to get a big tub of Aquaphor Healing Ointment for their bathroom cabinet, plus a smaller tube for their bags. It does an excellent job of protecting the skin barrier, and, by the way, it’s just as good for preventing dry, chapped lips. Put some on your hands before putting on your gloves and going out. A note about gloves: some people react to lanolin without realizing it. Use leather or synthetic material gloves and mittens instead of wool.
Two other top-notch products in the drugstore are Aveeno Active Naturals Stress Relief Body Moisturizing Lotion and Vaseline Intensive Rescue Clinical Therapy Skin Protectant Lotion. For those who want the simplest possible approach and don’t mind smelling slightly like a good salad, extra virgin olive oil left on overnight on the body and the lips also works. I have patients who use a salad oil mister to spray themselves all over. If you have very dry skin, ask your doctor to prescribe Hylatopic Plus emollient foam and start applying it now. I particularly recommend it for anybody with eczema or very sensitive skin. It has no steroids, so patients can use it as long as they like.
Change Your Routine
Change your shower or bath routine. Ditch the scented and deodorant soaps which tend to dry the skin and use superfatted soaps or moisturizing body washes instead. Avoid prolonged baths and showers and don’t towel off completely. Make sure to apply all creams and lotions while the skin is still damp to bind the water to your skin.
Gentle exfoliation removes dead skin and allows moisturizers to penetrate better. Those cheap, ruffled nylon poufs sold everywhere, even dollar stores, are useful things to have in the bathroom for body exfoliation. For the face, gadgets such as the Clarisonic skin cleanser machines and Olay’s Professional Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System are nice to have, but you can also exfoliate with a gentle cleanser and a cotton pad. If you use a washcloth, remember to use a fresh one every time you wash your face, which should be twice a day; the prospect of doing so much laundry is why many turn to cotton pads instead.
Invest in a Humidifier
A humidifier is one of the best investments against dry skin, but don’t wait until December to get one — start using it now. One caveat: humidifiers have to be cleaned regularly and without fail, I’d say every couple of weeks. People who have radiators can use a safer and cheaper method: just put a bowl, freshly filled with water, on the radiator every day.
© 2011 Debra Jaliman, MD, author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist
Debra Jaliman, MD, author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist, is a board certified dermatologist with a private practice in New York City. Internationally recognized for her research and work in clinical and cosmetic dermatology, Dr. Jaliman has a reputation for using cutting-edge technology and the latest in skin care, as well as for being the “last stop” doctor, the one who fixes what others can’t. She is an assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a member of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. She is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology and is regarded as an authority in her field by journalists and cosmetics industry, appearing frequently on television and in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Allure, Glamour, Self, and InStyle.
For more information please visit http://www.drjaliman.com/ and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.