For many people, the cold clear days of winter bring more than just a rosy glow to the cheeks. They also bring uncomfortable dryness to the skin of the face, hands, and feet. For some people, the problem is worse than just a general tight, dry feeling: They get skin so dry it results in flaking, cracking, even eczema (in which the skin becomes inflamed).
"As soon as you turn the heat on indoors, the skin starts to dry out," Bonnie LaPlante, an esthetician with the Canyon Ranch resort in Lenox, Mass., tells WebMD. "It doesn't matter if you heat your home using oil, wood, or electricity. The skin gets dry."
Sound familiar? Read on to get WebMD's top 10 tips for boosting your winter skin care regimen, so that your skin stays moist and healthy through the winter months.
1. Seek a Specialist
If you go to your local drugstore, you'll be hard put to find a salesperson who can give you good advice. That's why going to an esthetician or dermatologist even once is a good investment. Such a specialist can analyze your skin type, troubleshoot your current skin care regimen, and give you advice on the skin care products you should be using.
But that doesn't mean you'll be stuck buying high-end products. "Inexpensive products work just as well as high-end ones," says David Voron, MD, a dermatologist in Arcadia, Calif. "In fact, the extra price you pay for the expensive stuff is often just for packaging and marketing. What's most important is how your skin responds to the product -- and how you like its feel, not how much money you paid for it."
2. Moisturize More
You may have found a moisturizer that works just fine in spring and summer. But as weather conditions change, so, too, should your skin care routine. Find an "ointment" moisturizer that's oil-based, rather than water-based, as the oil will create a protective layer on the skin that retains more moisture than a cream or lotion. (Hint: Many lotions labeled as "night creams" are oil-based.)
But choose your oils with care because not all oils are appropriate for the face. Instead, look for "nonclogging" oils, like avocado oil, mineral oil, primrose oil, or almond oil. Shea oil -- or butter -- is controversial, because it can clog facial pores. And vegetable shortening, LaPlante says, is a really bad idea. "It would just sit on the skin," she says. "And it would be really greasy."
You can also look for lotions containing "humectants," a class of substances (including glycerine, sorbitol, and alpha-hydroxy acids) that attract moisture to your skin.
3. Slather on the Sunscreen
No, sunscreen isn't just for summertime. Winter sun -- combined with snow glare -- can still damage your skin. Try applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen to your face and your hands (if they're exposed) about 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply frequently if you stay outside a long time.