Cold temperatures outdoors and dry, heated air indoors can leave your skin parched. Your scalp and body may become flaky, your chin and nose red and irritated. Your lips may be chapped. Your hands and feet may develop painful cracks.
Here is advice from board-certified dermatologists Dr. Kristen Kelly, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Irvine, and Dr. Susan Goodlerner, spokeswoman for the American Academy of Dermatology:
Wash with a mild facial cleanser and lukewarm, not hot, water. Blot - don't rub dry - and use a moisturizing cream.
Scale down use of cleansers and moisturizers with exfoliating ingredients such as acids or anti-acne components if they are making your skin dry.
Remember that even if your skin is typically oily, some parts of the face may be dry during the winter. Use a moisturizer lightly in the oily areas and be liberal with it in dry spots.
Use a sunscreen with a minimum SPF 15 during the day. Many good facial moisturizers have a built-in sunscreen.
Use a waterproof sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30 if you are participating in outdoor sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.
Look for UV-A and UV-B protection. Look for at least one of the following ingredients: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone.
Reapply after several hours.
Keep showers and baths short.
Use warm, not hot, water, even if hot water feels better.
Remember that antibacterial soaps can sometimes be drying to the skin.
Use soaps, bath oils, and shower gels with moisturizing qualities.
Rinse thoroughly and blot dry.
Apply body cream immediately to seal in moisture.
Wash your hair with warm, not hot, water.
To treat dandruff, wash hair most days with a mild shampoo.
Use an anti-dandruff shampoo two to three times a week. These shampoos contain an active ingredient such as selenium sulfide, coal tar, zinc pyrithione, or ketoconazole.
If one brand doesn't work, try another.
Leave shampoo on your scalp for the recommended time listed on the instructions for best results.
Choose a lotion or cream that won't easily wash off when you wash your hands.
Use lotion or cream immediately after washing hands with soap and water to seal in moisture.
For extremely dry hands, heavier creams and ointments may be more effective.
Don't chew on or lick your lips. This will cause them to become dry.
Use a lip moisturizer or lip balm with SPF 15 or petroleum jelly. Reapply throughout the day and night.
Remember that cold sores are contagious - they're caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Cold sores disappear on their own in about a week.
Some over-the-counter topical ointments may provide temporary relief, but if you want tougher treatment, get a prescription for acyclovir ointment (Zovirax).
(SIDEBAR, page F04)
Myths about winter skin care
Myth: Dandruff occurs mostly in the winter.
Fact: Dandruff occurs throughout the year. Washing the hair and scalp with hot water can make the skin dry but does not cause dandruff.
Myth: You don't need to wear sunscreen in the winter.
Fact: Even when it's cloudy, you still need to protect your skin from UV damage.
Myth: Only pricey moisturizers have good quality.
Fact: Some drugstore brands, such as Cetaphil, Neutrogena, Eucerin, Aveeno, and Oil of Olay, do a good job of cleansing and moisturizing the skin.
Myth: Soap is not good for the skin.
Fact: It depends on the soap. Pure soap can be drying to the skin. Choose one that's appropriate for the condition of your skin, whether it's dry, oily, or a combination.
Myth: More is always better when moisturizing the face.
Fact: Overmoisturizing areas that are irritated or have acne may worsen the situation.
Source: Dr. Kristen Kelly, associate professor of dermatology, University of California, Irvine.
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