When winter weather ravages your skin and the humidity levels are all messed up between the outdoor wind chills and overheated indoors, you'll likely notice your skin suffering. That tight dryness, accompanied by redness, irritation and maybe even cracks in the skin. But before you suffer from chapped knuckles, rough elbows and itchy legs, you can avoid such miserable winter skin if you switch up your skincare routine to meet your seasonal needs. So we consulted some experts for tips on keeping your skin healthy, hydrated and (most importantly) itch-free.
What they suggested were thicker, longer lasting products that are often packed with a higher concentration of active ingredients designed to soothe and heal skin. They're particularly helpful if you're outdoors for extended periods of time. It’s an essential game plan for those who don’t want to give up on outdoor adventures just because the temperatures have dropped. And they’re particularly helpful for those with long commutes or if your job requires you to be in the cold. These creams, balms and lotions are engineered to protect you from such outside forces as frigid, dry winds while retaining your skin's natural moisture.
We know a long, hot shower feels good, especially on cold mornings, but Andrew Goetz—one half of the apothecary brand Malin + Goetz—advises against it. "That's the number one mistake guys make in the winter," he says. "I know they feel nice, but they'll dehydrate your skin very quickly." Aim for shorter, lukewarm showers until March, at least. And while you're in there, use a washcloth to gently scrub your skin all over. This helps with itchiness and stimulates circulation and boosts your body's natural oils.
Ease Up on the Soap
Beware of harsh soaps with a lot of artificial scents or antibacterial agents. They tend to remove the protective oils our skin produces. Dr. Robert Dellavalle, a dermatology professor at the University of Colorado, suggests you be strategic about soaping up. Hit the spots that tend to smell (armpits, feet and groin) and stay away from spots that tend to dry out (lower legs and abdomen).
Moisturize. A Lot.
Apply a rich moisturizer as soon as you get out of that short shower, to seal in moisture. Malin + Goetz's vitamin-rich lotion does the job without being overly heavy and its calming properties will reduce redness and soothe post-shave skin. Salt & Stone makes a reliable hand cream that smells great, hydrates skin but absorbs quickly and won’t leave your palms feeling greasy. For the really rough spots (think hands, feet and elbows), opt for something even more heavy-duty, such as O'Keeffe's Working Hands Hand Cream.
Dermatologists will tell you that balms and salves that contain oil are ideal this time of year, since oil is much more effective at trapping moisture within the skin than water (which is often found in lighter-weight lotions). One told us to look for oil to be one of the first five ingredients to make sure it's a major part of the product's formula. One of the most important balms, especially during the winter, is an aftershave balm. It not only disinfects the skin that's just been dragged with a razor blade, but it also helps build up a defensive layer to aid your skin in recovery and moisture retention. Anthony’s healing balm is quick absorbing and also prevents any irritation while reducing razor burn and redness.
Protect Sensitive Skin
If your skin breaks out when met with heavy duty products, this all-natural, petroleum-free balm is for you. An all-purpose ointment like Doctor Rogers Restore Healing Balm will alleviate a variety of skin issues, because it mixes glycerin (known to promote healing and reduce irritation) with castor oil (a proven emollient that not only hydrates but decreases inflammation).
* Pro Tip: David Bank, M.D. of The Center for Dermatology, suggests countering the dry indoor heat of your home or office with a humidifier. “This can make a huge difference just by increasing the amount of water molecules in the air around you.”