By Stephanie Rogers, Mother Nature Network
Cold, whipping winds and dry indoor heat join forces in the winter to deprive your skin of its moisture, leaving you with scales, flakes, more visible wrinkles, itching and discomfort. Severe cases can even cause painful cracking and eruptions of skin rashes like eczema. Heavy moisturizing creams can help, but there are plenty of other ways in which you can keep your skin soft and supple during the coldest months of the year. Learn how to fix dry winter skin with these eight simple tips.
Moisture doesn't just make your skin look younger and healthier, it provides a protective barrier. When this barrier is stripped, you're more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections as well as friction that can cause irritation and further drying. Aside from environmental changes, factors like age, genetics, smoking, health conditions and hot showers can contribute to dryness. Areas of the body with the fewest oil glands, like the lower legs, tend to dry out the fastest. Luckily, changing your hygiene habits and the products you use can make a difference in just a few days.
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Shower in lukewarm water. It's tempting to luxuriate in long, hot showers and baths when the temperatures drop, but hot water is hard on your skin, stripping it of its natural oils. That doesn't mean you have to start taking cold showers, but it would help to keep the dial closer to body temperature than to boiling. Bathing or showering less often can help, too.
Choose gentle, natural moisturizers. Many common ingredients in lotions and moisturizers, including petrolatum and silicone, are not ideal for your skin and can actually exacerbate dryness over time. Plant-based oils like borage, cocoa butter and jojoba help maintain a protective barrier over your skin, and many have additional benefits, like assisting in cell turnover. Hyaluronic acid, a substance found in our body's connective tissues, attracts up to 50 times its weight in water; naturally HLA-rich avocado oil is a great way to take advantage of these properties.
Moisturize while your skin is still damp. When you emerge from the bath or shower, take a moment to apply your lotion or body cream. The moisturizing ingredients in the lotion will help seal water into your skin, helping it stay hydrated longer.
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Exfoliate on a regular basis. Help your body shed the dead skin cells that can build up visibly when your skin is dry. Use a gentle exfoliant like a loofah or a body scrub made with sugar, salt or other coarse ingredients to buff your skin to a soft, smooth finish.
Drink lots of water. If you're dehydrated, your skin will look dryer and saggier than it really is. Drinking more water can definitely help plump skin up and make it healthier, but it won't make a difference in the outer layers of the skin, so it's not a cure-all.
Skip harsh soaps. Even if it says "gentle" on the package, the soap you're using might be leaching your skin of its lipids. Detergents, alcohol, lye and artificial fragrances and dyes can be very drying, and if your skin feels "squeaky" clean when you're done bathing or washing your hands, you're not doing yourself any favors. All-natural, oil-based cleansers like castile soap are a better choice for dry skin. You should also look for added moisturizing ingredients like aloe vera, cocoa butter and oatmeal.
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Consider using a humidifier. Adding moisture back to the parched air in your home will also benefit your skin, hair and mucous membranes.
Don't forget the sunscreen. We tend to associate sun protection with warm weather, but it's just as easy to get a sunburn in February as it is in July. Slather it on, and you'll prevent damage and dryness.
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