If winter skin has got you itching and flaking this season, take heart: The solution doesn’t require tons of money or fancy creams. With a few winter skin-friendly habits and a couple of do-it-yourself treatments, you can remedy your flaky issues right at home.
Humidifier help. A good rule to remember: When you turn up the heat, turn on the humidifier. “The air inside your home becomes very dry in the winter, especially if your windows are closed and the heat is on. A humidifier will replace moisture in the air,” says Dr. Stuart Kaplan, creator of the skincare line KAPLAN MD. If you do not have a humidifier, he suggests placing a few pans of water throughout the house, especially near any radiators, in order to keep indoor air-moisture levels at around 40 to 50 percent.
Short showers. You know how when you lick dry lips, the more you lick them, the drier they become? The same principal rings true for your skin. “Frequent, long, hot showers remove the oils, making it drier and itchier,” says Kaplan, who recommends showering in lukewarm water for less than 10 minutes in the winter months. When drying yourself off, “pat—do not rub—your skin until it is just moist, and then apply an emollient cream to seal in the moisture,” he advises.
Layer it on. There’s no need to buy a totally new facial cream for winter skin, but dermatologists do recommend adding a hydrating serum to your facial routine. “With the cold winds and going to and from the indoor heat, the skin becomes drier than normal and can also become sensitive if not properly taken care of,” says Dr. Paige B. Camp of Marietta Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center in Marietta, Ga. She suggests a serum with hyaluronic acid, hyaluronate, ceramide, coenzyme Q-10 and/or alpha lipoic acid. Alternatively, Kaplan advocates the healing benefits of essential oils, such as acai, passionflower, argan and grapeseed. A little will go a long way with serum—apply a dime-sized amount to your face after cleansing and toning, and before your daytime and nighttime moisturizer.
Hand it over. Pay special attention to your hands and feet. “Before bed, apply a thin layer of rich hand cream, and cover hands with light cotton gloves and feet with socks,” says Kaplan. The “outerwear” will help the cream penetrate your dry winter skin overnight. Camp recommends hand and body cream containing ceramide, which is super-hydrating, as well as avocado oil, lanolin, glycerin, tocopherol (vitamin E) and squalane (derived from olive oil). All of these ingredients can be found in inexpensive drugstore brands.
Close shave. “If you tend to have dry or sensitive skin, definitely look for shaving creams that are formulated with moisturizing ingredients,” says Kaplan. Camp suggests making sure your shaving product contains ingredients like almond oil, coconut-derived glycerin, aloe, soothing oat or allantoin. Also—a tip for your hubby’s face—Camp advises to stay away from shea butter, which can cause acne.
Rub down. Exfoliation is key to ridding the face and body of dry, used skin cells. Camp says to think of it this way: If the skin has a dry layer on the surface and you add a treatment cream, it is like putting your body lotion over your sweater in the winter—all that goodness is not going to break through. “For the face, we suggest exfoliating no more than two times a week for ideal maintenance; for the body, a daily light exfoliation in the shower is excellent. This will allow your treatment creams to work to their optimal level, and allow any active ingredients to actually have a chance to make it to the healthy skin layer below,” she says. Here are Camp’s favorite DIY exfoliators:
Body: Mix equal parts oatmeal and sea salt with olive or avocado oil to form a thick paste.
Face: Add a small amount of baking soda to the cleanser you are using at present a few times a week to gently exfoliate even the most sensitive of skin.
Mask it. Camp likes to whip up one of these two easy face masks—also good for your elbows!—with at-home ingredients when the going gets dry.
Berry Good 4 U Facial Mask: Blend 2 tablespoons each oatmeal (finely ground) and plain yogurt with 1 teaspoon honey and three fresh strawberries (thinly sliced). Apply to your face, avoiding the eyes, and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse well with warm water.
Honey Please Mask: Mix together 2-3 tablespoons honey with 1 egg yolk (add one teaspoon of warm water if needed to loosen it up). Apply to your face, avoiding the eyes, and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse well with warm water.