By Mary Rose Almasi, REDBOOK
Our mission: to keep you and everyone in your family glowy and smooth this winter, from your heads to your chubby-wubby toes.
1. Reach out and touch someone: It's a fact: Skin-to-skin contact makes you happier. "Being touched signals the brain's vagus nerve, which has branches everywhere in the body," says Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. "This decreases cortisol, which lowers your stress levels." So silkify your skin, then cuddle someone stat.
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2. Winter-proof your skin: Right now, your body probably feels nothing like, say, velvety-delicious baby feet. By midwinter, skin is tight, scaly, and beat up. Guys, and even children, suffer too: "Low humidity outdoors combined with dry indoor heat robs everyone's skin of moisture," says Ethan A. Lerner, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School. To stay soft and smooth, bathe only once a day (if you work out at night, do a quick rinse afterward, no soap), and to dry off, blot--don't rub--your skin with a towel. Apply body lotion while your skin is damp; if it feels super-parched, "mix half a teaspoon of body oil into your dollop of moisturizer," suggests David Colbert, M.D., a New York City dermatologist. And the pros agree: You don't have to splurge on body lotion. "Most formulas--even inexpensive ones--contain a fairly similar blend of skin nourishers," Lerner says.
3. Miracle in a tub: If you buy only one product from this story, make it a big jar of Aquaphor, $16.99. This mighty ointment heals and helps prevent chapped lips, wind-burned skin, cracked cuticles, and chalky knees and elbows. Just slather it on!
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4. Beat cold weather's WORST rash: It's eczema, and according to the American Academy of Dermatology, 10 to 20 percent of people will develop it, and 90 percent of those have had the rash before the age of 5. This chronic skin condition tends to worsen in dry air, and some sufferers only experience flare-ups during the winter. While eczema's cause isn't fully understood, doctors believe genetics play a role and that it's related to the immune system. Symptoms include scattered patches of red, itchy, dry skin (usually on the hands, neck, face, and legs) that can lead to sores when scratched. In children, "hinged areas"--like the insides of the knees and elbows--are often affected too. If a member of your family has any of these symptoms, see a dermatologist. Experts agree that the tried-and-true treatment is to apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to reduce the itch--which is key, because the more you scratch, the worse eczema gets. You can also tamp down an angry rash by applying a fragrance-free, basic moisturizer such as Eucerin Original Moisturizing Lotion, $8.39, to soothe the itch (our hero ointment, Aquaphor, above, is another sure bet). For nighttime relief, trim your nails and wear lightweight cotton gloves or socks on your hands to bed, so you don't scratch yourself in your sleep.
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5. Tot tips: Keep young skin pristine with this advice from Amy S. Paller, M.D., chair of dermatology and a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University: 1. Babies and toddlers don't need daily baths unless they have dry skin or eczema. Use a soap- and lather-free wash like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, $11.99. 2. Post-bath, rub a basic lotion such as Lubriderm, $7.99, or Moisturel, $12.99, all over them. 3. If their skin still feels dry, run their clothes and bedding through a second rinse cycle in the washer to eliminate any detergent residue. And skip dryer sheets, which leave a coating that worsens dryness.
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6. Now, soften up your guy: Men have their own set of winter skin issues, though one thing's for certain: All that body hair works in their favor. "It contributes natural oils to their skin, so guys don't need as much extra hydration during the cold months as women and kids do," Colbert says. Still, you can sneak in some better habits so he feels softer against you . First, stock the shower with a gender-neutral (that means no "Sweet Pea & Violet" scent), creamy body wash like Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash with Nutrium Moisture, $4.49. Then, give him a gel body moisturizer, such as Vaseline Aloe Fresh Moisturizing Gel, $6.29, which absorbs faster than a lotion so he won't complain that it feels sticky. Finally, to de-scale his alligator hands, slather your mitts in an unscented hand cream (such as Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve, $13) at bedtime, then rub his hands to share the love.
If your guy is one of the zillions whose body has areas of Little Red Bumps (that's our official name for the condition), the cause may be clogged sweat glands. Make sure he wears a sweat-wicking shirt and shorts when he works out, and that he showers immediately afterward with an antibacterial soap such as Lever 2000. If the bumps persist, have him try using Hibiclens cleanser, $13.49, which is antimicrobial and antiseptic. "He should apply a thin layer to the affected skin five minutes before or during his shower," says Lerner.
As for his cute mug, Colbert adds, just let it be: "If your man doesn't want to use face moisturizer, he doesn't have to unless his skin is blatantly dry." Colbert says that guys don't need to exfoliate, either, because shaving removes dead skin. Lucky fellas!
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7. Trade 2-minute massages: Have your guy lie on his back, and sit or kneel behind his head. Put your hands, palms up, under his back on either side of his spine. With fingers slightly curled up, gently pull your hands toward his neck. Repeat eight times, then switch places!
8. A rough-heels remedy: Bedtime just isn't as nice when your dry, cracked heels are scraping each other's legs. Try this easy fix from Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine: Rub your feet and heels with a pumice stone, then slather them in a rich cream. Put on thick gym socks, which create heat to help the ingredients sink in, and leave them on for 30 to 45 minutes. Slip them off before bed, and let the footsie-playing begin.
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