The combination of chilly temperatures and hot, dry heat is a recipe for a skin disaster. Margaret Muldrow shares six ways to protect your skin from trouble this winter.
By Olivia DeLong
Strong winds, dry heat and and freezing temps are all part of winter, but the temperature changes and dry, dehydrating air can wreak havoc on your skin. “During the winter, you lose water through your skin and then your skin is less of a barrier to bacteria in the environment,” says dermatologist Margaret “Miggs” Muldrow, MD, of Presbyterian/St Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, Colorado. Your skin can become extremely dry, inflamed, itchy or splotchy—and you can even break out with eczema. Constant dry skin can age your skin, too.
Get rid of cracked hands and chapped lips with these skin-saving tips from Dr. Muldrow.
When you’re blasting your home’s heat to keep your family warm, the humidity level in your home is probably going to drop. Low humidity levels are sure to dry out your skin, but a humidifier will put moisture back in the air—and back in your skin.
Place a humidifier by every bed in the house, and close the door to that room to lock the moisture in. To keep the humidifier functioning properly, use distilled water and change the filters as directed. Keep an eye on your home’s humidity levels with a hygrometer or other thermostat device; a home humidity level of about 30 percent to 50 percent is good for your health.
While a steaming hot shower may sound good after trekking around in the snow, you may want to think twice before you turn the faucet all the way to hot. Hot water dries out the skin, so opt for warm water instead. Try limiting your time in the shower to just 5 or 10 minutes.
Muldrow says to be mindful of how many showers you take per day, too. “It’s okay to shower daily, but a couple of showers a day is problematic.”
It’s easy to get suckered into the greatest-smelling products in the drugstore aisle, but perfumes and harsh chemicals in body wash and soaps will irritate your skin. “Stay away from anti-bacterial soaps and body washes with lots of fragrances,” says Muldrow.
And you can spend hours dissecting product ingredient lists, but Muldrow just says to remember that fragrance-free products with simple ingredients are best.
Moisturizing every day is great, but the time of day you moisturize matters, too. When you moisturize right after you take a shower or bath and after you’ve washed your hands or face, ointments, creams and lotions trap existing moisture into your skin.
For patients with really dry skin Muldrow recommends a wet wrap. “Soak in a tub of lukewarm water and don't add anything to the bathwater. Get out, barely dry off, and coat your skin with Vaseline, put on pajamas and go to bed.” And Muldrow says cold-pressed virgin coconut oil can be used as a moisturizer, too. The oil’s antioxidants soften the skin and may even reduce the appearance of fine lines.
Drinking an adequate amount of water may help your digestive system, blood circulation, kidney function and waistline, but water also helps keep your skin cells hydrated. If your skin isn’t getting enough water, it may become dry and flaky. “It’s important you’re aware of the amount of fluids you’re getting, and to drink a lot of water, particularly in the wintertime,” says Muldrow.
Though scientific proof is lacking, many people believe that, the more water you drink, the brighter your skin will glow. Women should aim for 91 ounces of water a day from both food and beverages, while men should aim for six to eight cups.
Every year come fall or winter, your lips dry out, and then you’re constantly licking them. “Our lips are in the sun and exposed to the environment. They’re a very fragile part of the body because the skin is thinner,” says Muldrow. And as you get older, the shape of your mouth changes. “Saliva carries bacteria and yeast that pools up in the corners of your mouth, and that causes irritation and inflammation.”
Keep your lip moisturizing routine simple. Vaseline or lanolin-based products are safe bets and if your lips are really inflamed, you may need a topical steroid. “Start with over-the-counter hydrocortisone, but if it’s not getting better, see your doctor," says Muldrow.
Blueberries, dark chocolate and sunscreen are three things you need to keep skin beautiful, supple and smooth. Antioxidant-rich foods such as berries, dark chocolate, cantaloupe, citrus fruits and leafy greens provide the vitamins... you need for skins elasticity. Avoiding smoking prevents premature aging. But the number-one way to keep skin gorgeous is to stay out of the sun and away from tanning beds. The suns radiation causes skin damage, including wrinkles, age spots and skin cancer. Use a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays in an SPF of 15 or higher, and reapply often. More