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How to Prevent and Treat Dry Winter Skin

Helpful tips for keeping your skin healthy during the cold and dry season.

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Winter weather, high altitude, and an uptick in hand-washing can all lead to dry, cracked, and irritated skin. Carla Torres-Zegarra, M.D., Society for Pediatric Dermatology, Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado, shared her tips to keep your family’s skin moisturized and glowing this season.


Hands

Wash Mindfully

Frequent hand-washing combined with drops in temperature can exacerbate dry skin. “If left untreated, dry skin may become irritated and start flaking, itching, cracking, and even bleed, damaging the skin barrier and increasing the risk of infection,” says Torres-Zegarra. Follow these steps every time you wash your hands to prevent dryness:

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Moisturize Regularly

Regardless of how often you wash your hands, Torres-Zegarra encourages people to use moisturizer at least twice a day. “The most important time to moisturize is immediately after bathing and handwashing, while the skin is still damp. This provides a seal to hold existing water in the skin,” she explains.


Face

Skip a Step

Torres-Zegarra says that your face doesn’t get dirty overnight, so there’s no reason to deep clean it each morning. Instead, wash your face at night with warm water and finish with a cold-water rinse, which constricts the blood vessels and may relieve irritated skin.

Ditch Harsh Ingredients

In the winter, Torres-Zegarra says you may also want to stop using skincare products that contain the following: Alcohol (except for hand sanitizer), alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), fragrance (including soaps and face washes), and retinoids (unless recommended by your dermatologist). Avoiding these products will help your skin retain its natural oils, limiting the chance of developing dry skin.

Wear Sunscreen

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher year-round, kids included. But applying sunscreen last is vital, and it will help you get the most out of any other products you use. Apply prescription creams or ointments to your face first, follow with a gentle moisturizer, then finish with sunscreen.

“Think of sunscreens as your umbrella in charge of protecting you from harmful UV light,” Torres-Zegarra says. “As such, it should be the last layer on your skin, to act as a shield against UV damage.” Follow these additional tips when choosing a sunscreen:

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Dry winter skin remedies
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Lips

Care for Your Lips

More often than not, we forget about protecting our lips, leaving them exposed to winter conditions. But the cold weather, dry wind, and heated air inside can all lead to dry, cracked lips—at any age.

“The lips are very thin and do not contain oil glands like other areas of the skin. They can dry out 10 times faster than the rest of the skin on your face,” Torres-Zegarra says. Here’s what she recommends for dry lips:

Try a Soothing Mask

While a lip balm will deliver some immediate relief to your lips, a lip mask may offer deeper moisture to them during the winter months. Because masks are meant to be left on the lips overnight when the product will not rub off as easily, the product may penetrate more deeply into the skin.


Body

Keep Temperatures Cool

High temperatures and prolonged baths and showers can result in dry skin. Torres-Zegarra recommends limiting yourself to a five- to 10-minute bath or shower daily, or ideally, every other day. “If you bathe more than that, you remove your skin’s oily layer and cause it to lose moisture,” she says. Similar to washing your hands or face, you should bathe in lukewarm water, rather than hot, as hot water can wash away natural oils more easily.

Lather up Gently

To reduce the risk of trauma to the skin, Torres-Zegarra advises that you avoid bath sponges, scrub brushes, and washcloths. If you don’t want to give them up altogether, be mindful of using a light touch. For the same reason, pat dry rather than rubbing the skin when toweling dry after a shower or bath.

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Lastly, apply that moisturizer immediately after bathing to lock in moisture and to keep your skin happy all winter long.

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