Helpful tips to avoid dry winter skin, choose the right moisturizer and soften cracking hands and feet.
Your skin, the largest organ in your body, often needs a little extra help during winter months to stay healthy and intact. In the dead of winter your skin suffers from dry air, hot showers and exposure to the cold and wind. But there are some common sense things you can do keep your skin healthy.
- Moisturize frequently. Apply moisturizer immediately after showering while your skin is still damp and, if possible, several times throughout the day. (Scroll down a little further for special tips on choosing the right moisturizer).
- Lower the thermostat in your house.
- Humidify your air. Use a humidifier or place a pot of water on your wood or pellet stove to release moisture into the air.
- Avoid hot showers. Hot water in the winter might feel good, but it is the most effective means of stripping your skin of its essential oils and can be particularly hard on your feet.
- Limit the number of times you wash or immerse your hands in hot water. Apply moisturizer liberally every time you wash your hands.
- Avoid drying soaps, use moisturizing shower gels, instead.
- If your moisturizer doesn’t contain sunscreen, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from damaging UV rays.
- Stay hydrated.
3 Tips to Choosing the Right Moisturizer
The store aisles are full of moisturizers. From basic tubs of Vaseline, to tubes of cream created for bovine udders, to high-end cosmetic offerings- how do you choose the one for you?
- Read the ingredients. Moisturizers can seal moisture into the skin or attract moisture. Products will contain ingredients that do one or both of these things. Sealing moisturizers (or Occlusive ingredients) include names like lanolin, petrolatum, mineral oil, and cocoanut oil. Ingredients that attract moisture to the skin’s surface (or humectants) include names like propylene glycol, urea, sorbitol and glycerin. Another important ingredient is alpha hydroxy acid or AHA, which exfoliates dead skin and improves moisture retention. Look for ingredient names like glycolic, lactic, malic, tartaric and citric acids. Key ingredients should be listed at the top of the list indicating that they are present in higher concentrations.
- Pay attention to sensitivities. If you have fair or sensitive skin, look for products that are labeled “hypoallergenic”. If you have oily skin look for products that won’t clog your pores and are labeled “non-comedogenic” or products that are oil-free. If your skin is especially dry, choose heavier lotions that are richer in oils and emollients.
- Even on the dreariest winter days, you still need to apply sunscreen. Consider moisturizers with an SPF of 30 to protect your skin from sun damage.
Hands Down, the Best Foot Forward
Cracked hands and feet may need intensive care. Inhospitable weather is especially hard on these extremities. Standing in hot showers and washing your hands frequently can sap essential oils and leave your hands and heels red and cracked. Try these soothing steps:
- Exfoliate daily while you are in the shower or after you’ve soaked your hands and feet to soften them. Use an exfoliating scrub. There are plenty of over the counter choices, or make your own with sugar and cocoanut oil. Use a pumice stone on your feet to remove harder callouses.
- Dry your hands and feet thoroughly and immediately apply your moisturizing cream. Apply while your skin is still damp to retain the most moisture. If you have the chance, apply moisturizer a few times throughout the day.
- Before bed, apply another thick layer of moisturizer and pull on a pair of cotton gloves or socks. Not only will this extra layer protect your linens, but it will also help keep your extremities warm, which will boost the moisturizing power.
- See a dermatologist or podiatrist if you are not making headway or the damage seems especially severe. Underlying medical conditions like diabetes or thyroid issues can be a cause, as well as fungal infections and skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis. (For a list of dermatologists or podiatrists in the area visit our physician’s directory.)