BETWEEN braving the arctic temperatures outside and hunkering under your down comforter with the heat on full blast at night, your body takes a beating come wintertime.
Just look in the mirror: You've got the dry, itchy skin, cracked lips and nails, and brittle hair to prove it.
"In winter, there's a lot less moisture in the air, which dries out the skin," says Dr. Min-Wei Christine Lee, a dermatologic surgeon.
"Dry skin is less capable of healing and shows the signs of aging more than moisturized skin."
Thankfully, you don't have to look like a dried- up prune or suffer through itching fits this season.
With the expert help of Lee, as well as Dr. Linda K. Franks, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine, you can prevent parched parts by following these skin-saving strategies.
Down H2O: It's easy to remember to drink liquids when you're sweating in the summer heat, but you still need to drink eight glasses of water per day during the winter to keep your body hydrated from head to toe.
Ease up on the heat: Taking long showers and cranking up the heater strips your skin of moisture. Instead, opt for warm, short showers, and consider investing in a humidifier to hold onto some humidity. A cheaper option: leave a pot of water on your radiator. The liquid will vaporize and increase the moisture in the air.
Use mild soaps: Deodorant soaps can suck the moisture right out of your skin. Instead, choose gentle ones such as Purpose and Dove, or go for soapless cleansers such as Neutrogena Moisture Boosting Body Wash, and Olay Complete Body Wash, which get rid of dirt and oil without removing moisture. For the face, try Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, or Oil of Olay Moisture-Rich Cream Cleanser, which removes make-up without overdrying your skin.
Slather on sunscreen: Don't be fooled by overcast skies - you're still getting hit with the sun's rays. In fact, "you get more sun reflection from the snow than from water," says Lee. So apply sunscreen with at least SPF 15 (skiers and snowboarders should up that to SPF 30) about 30 minutes before heading outside.
Lube up: Unless you're acne prone, switch to a cream rather than lotion moisturizer, since creams contain more oil. Good choices include Elta, SBR-Lipocream and Cetaphil moisturizers. For creams that do double-duty, try Kiehl's Abyssine Cream, which fights wrinkles, or Lac-Hydrin Lotion, which contains lactic acid to exfoliate dead skin cells.
Act fast: Apply moisturizers to your face and body before bed and immediately after taking a bath or shower, while your skin is still wet. This helps seal in the moisture before it evaporates.
Hands are particularly prone to chapping because they're exposed all the time.
During the day, rub in Aquaphor or Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve, which locks in moisture like a glove, especially right after washing your hands.
Every one to two weeks, coat your hands and feet with Vaseline before bed, and allow it to penetrate overnight by covering them with mittens and socks.
"You'll wake up with soft hands and feet the next day," says Lee.
Your pucker is actually a barometer of how hydrated you are.
"Once the lips get dry, your tank is empty," says Lee. "It's the body's water gauge."
Don't even think about licking them, which only makes matters worse. Instead, get out of the dehydration zone by drinking water throughout the day and swiping on a soothing balm that moisturizes and blocks the sun's harmful rays, such as MAC Lip Conditioner SPF 15 or Kiehl's Lip Balm SPF 15.
Both come in clear and tinted versions and are small enough so that you can leave them in your purse or desk drawer for quick moisture boosts during the day.
Prevent brittle nails by taking a couple of extra seconds to massage Vaseline or Aquaphor into the nail bed and cuticles daily, and wear gloves when you head outside.
Nails are porous just like hair and need oxygen, so if you're constantly putting on polish, your nails aren't getting a chance to breathe. So limit how often you put on polish.
If your scalp tends to get dry in winter, don't skip washing your hair. Instead, use a gentle shampoo and daily conditioner to lock moisture into the hair shaft, such as Aveda's Scalp Benefits Balancing Shampoo and Conditioner, or Sap Moss Shampoo and Conditioning Detangler.
Before styling, apply a leave-in conditioner designed for dry scalps, such as Kiehl's Leave-in Conditioner, Aveda's Elixir or Aveda's Scalp Remedy, if you need dandruff control as well.
Once or twice a month, massage a deep conditioner - such as Kiehl's Intensive Repairateur Deep Conditioner Pak, or Deep Conditioning Protein Pak - into your hair for 20 to 30 minutes.
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