True, the sun is a huge cause of many nasty skin issues, but winter -- with its dry air, harsh winds, cold temperatures, extra glasses of cheer and holiday stresses -- is also largely responsible for those fine lines and wrinkles.
Heat and wind suck the moisture from your skin, creating wrinkles and giving your complexion an unattractive crepe-like appearance. Factor in stress, which throws your hormones out of whack, causing breakouts and further dryness, and you have a perfect storm of skin wreckers.
Luckily, there are things you can do to fight winter-induced skin evils. For pro tips, consult our complete battle plan here, a few highlights of which are listed below:
First up, understand exactly why your skin is so dry:
"Due to the drop in humidity, the skin is not able to retain as much water," says Houston-based dermatologist Jennifer Peterson, MD. "We call this increased transepidermal water loss. As a result the skin becomes dry and is prone to cracks. Once the skin is dry and cracked it becomes more irritable, red, and itchy, and becomes prone to irritants such as soaps, wools, and other rough-textured clothing (which we like to wear in the winter), and fragrances."
Then, stop dryness before it can start:
As soon as you're out of the shower -- and while your skin is still damp -- pat on moisturizer. This will help trap in that extra water and prevent your skin from drying out, says Brad Katchen, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.
Arm yourself with the right ingredients:
As you probably know, not all moisturizers are created equal. That's why it's crucial to use the most hydrating ingredients possible in winter -- and to avoid any that will cause irritation. Here's a rundown:
• Oils, like olive, coconut, or aloe vera, says Rigel, since they seal in moisture and can soothe the skin.
• Humectants, like dimethicone, glycerine, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid, says Arielle Kauvar, MD, a dermatologist in Los Angeles, since these ingredients will draw water from the air into your skin.
• Moisturizers with ceramides, which is a fat naturally found in the top layers of your skin and helps retain the water in the skin, says Peterson.
• Moisturizers with added fragrance and essential oils (like peppermint or eucalyptus oils), says Katchen, since these can cause irritation in some people, especially if your skin is already dry and cracked.
Of course, applying those ingredients the right way makes all the difference. See how to do it here.
Protection is key:
There are ways to protect your skin beyond moisturizer. Kauvar suggests using a humidifier indoors in the winter to keep moisture in the air. When you're outside, keep your skin covered as much as possible with gloves, hats, and scarves, says Peterson. Also, since wools and rough fabrics can irritate your skin, Peterson suggests wearing silks and satiny fabrics close to your skin and keep the wool as an outer layer only.
And since dry skin isn't the only issue in winter, Kauvar has this advice: "Layer your clothing so you are not sweating in too-heavy clothing, which can make skin break out." This way you can easily remove layers as needed.
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