Preparing your skin for winter
Article by Neil Sadick, MD
Manhattan Dermatologic Surgeon
While walking through Central Park last week, I noticed that the leaves were changing and realized that the winter will be here before long. As with any season change, I always suggest that my patients amend or adjust their skincare programs for specific seasons. In a recent email from a patient, she asked two great questions:
- How should she change in her skincare routine for the winter months?
- Why do the seasons have an impact on skincare programs?
As we head into winter specifically, there are many factors that have an impact on your skin. Most significantly is the constant change of temperature between being outside in the cold and inside with the heat, and the dryness that comes along with winter heating. This means that your skin loses moisture faster and becomes drier. As a result, your skin is going to be more sensitive in the winter months.
What can you do to keep away the harmful effects of dry, cold weather?
There are two very simple principles that you can follow that can really help protect your skin during the winter months. The first is to stay away from very hot showers. Take short, warm showers. Staying away from very hot showers will prevent water loss from your skin’s surface. Immediately after taking those warm showers, wrap yourself in a towel, but before you dry use a moisturizer all over your face and body.
Gentle moisturizers like Cetaphil are ideal for the face. For the body, stronger moisturizers containing 6-12% lactic acid or 10-20% urea such as Lac-Hydrin 6 can be obtained over-the-counter and can make a difference in protecting your skin against chaffing and dryness associated with that mean winter cold.
Remember, if you are skiing or doing other outdoor activities wearing a sunblock during the winter is as important as during the summer. Wear a broad-spectrum UVB/UVA sunblock because harmful ultraviolet rays don’t go away during the winter months. In fact, the sun is closer to us during the winter – so its radiation is stronger.
For protecting your nails and hair from the drying effects of winter cold put that same moisturizer around your cuticles and over your nail beds. Be sure to use a conditioner after shampooing or a 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner product. These steps will keep your nails from becoming brittle and protect your hair against breakage during Mother Nature’s cold encounters.
Finally, use a humidifier. At the very least, put one in your bedroom. This will keep your skin moist and can also help with breathing issues resulting from dry winter heat.