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By Grace Gold
Things happening right now: sweater weather, fun holiday lattes, and dry skin. Okay wait, I’m not excited about that last one.
As the air temp drops, so do humidity levels, which zaps moisture from your skin cells, says dermatologist Shari Marchbein, M.D. Combine that with wind and indoor heat (both deplete your protective barrier, making it harder for skin to stay hydrated) and your risk for dryness, redness, and flakiness increases. And if you’re prone to eczema or rosacea, winter weather can exacerbate those conditions.
It doesn’t matter what skin type you have—even oily complexions feel the effects when you turn up the thermostat. “In the cold, your skin attempts to conserve heat by constricting blood vessels, which in turn dries out the outer layers of your skin,” explains New York City dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D. This makes skin feel dry and look dull. Also: Fine lines appear more prominent. (Awesome!)
But you can ensure your skin stays soft and smooth all season long—here's how.
1. Invest in a humidifier. Jaliman says this will help keep moisture in the air and prevent the conditions that lead to dry, flakey skin in the first place. It’s especially helpful to sleep with one on overnight, when skin is doing its deepest restorative work.
2. Keep skin covered when you’re out in the cold. I'm talking scarves, hats, gloves, etc. Wind combined with cold temperatures can rapidly dry out exposed skin. It also helps to wear natural materials like cotton, says Jaliman—synthetic fabrics can itch and irritate sensitive skin, drying it out in the process.
3. Skip long, hot showers and baths. Sorry to be a bummer, but they deplete your skin’s lipid layer. “Keep the water temperature warm and the length under five minutes,” advises Marchbein. Pat, don’t rub, skin dry with a cotton towel, and immediately apply your body cream while skin is damp for maximum absorption.
4. Use skincare products with harsh active ingredients sparingly. Acne meds and anti-aging serums with powerful ingredients like retinol can have drying side effects, says Marchbein. Limiting use to every other day can help mitigate flakiness.
5. Stock up on products with the right active ingredients. Ceramides help create a strong shield and retain necessary moisture in the skin, says Marchbein. Get your fix with the Skinbetter Science cream below. Meanwhile, probiotics and prebiotics can increase natural production of ceramides and balance your skin’s pH (both musts for a healthy barrier), says dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D. Cannabis sativa, when used in serums and creams, can help increase skin’s fatty-acid content, an essential component in barrier function, says dermatologist Arash Akhavan, M.D
6. Switch your lightweight moisturizer for one that has ingredients like shea butter to lock in hydration. PCA Skin HydraLuxe Intensive Hydration has both, plus adaptive hydration technology—code for a flexible lipid layer that tightens and loosens with changing humidity levels to ensure your skin gets the ideal amount of moisture from the surrounding air.
7. ...And swap out your foaming face wash for a lotion-based formula. Foaming washes often contain drying components called surfactants that mess with your skin's barrier. Options like Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gentle Cleansing Lotion will still remove the day’s makeup and debris—without overstripping skin.
8. Apply moisturizer on dry skin. Ideally within a minute of hopping out of the shower, to lock in moisture, says Marchbein. “And if you’re sensitive, skip scented formulas, as they can be drying.”
9. For body skin, look for rich creams. Think: the kind that stay in the jar when you turn it upside down. Jaliman loves Bareminerals Butter Drench Restorative Rich Cream ($38, amazon.com). “This product is great because it has shea butter, which is extracted from the nut of the African shea tree—plus no parabens,” Jaliman says, which can irritate and dry out skin.
10. Treat hands with ingredients like glycerin and chamomile. They'reamong the most stubborn areas to treat, but these ingredients are up to the task. “Glycerin is a humectant that draws water from the air into skin’s outer layer, and serves as a protective layer that helps prevent moisture loss,” explains Jaliman. Chamomile, meanwhile, is great for dry skin and eczema because of its anti-inch and anti-inflammatory properties, she adds. Try Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment ($9.99, amazon.com).