Advise Me

10 Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skin Care Tips

Jack Frost may be nipping at your nose this winter, but is he causing mayhem to your skin too?

Whether you live in the northeast or southwest, cooler winter weather can really suck the life out of your skin. The cold air, dry indoor heat and harsh wind can leave many people with flaky skin, chapped lips and cracked hands and feet.

Don’t let freezing temps wreak havoc on your complexion. It’s possible to keep your skin happy—from head to toes—this winter.

Help your skin survive winter

Rebecca Thiede, MD, a dermatologist with Banner – University Medical Center Tucson shared these easy skin care tips so you can keep your skin healthy and looking good all season (and year!) long.

1. Good news: You don’t have to toss out your products!

“Overall, you can generally continue with the same regimen all year round, and it’s better to continue the same regimen to get the most out of your products,” Dr. Thiede said. “Adopting a simple, three-step approach (cleansing, moisturizing and protecting skin) can help reduce skin care costs while keeping your skin healthy.”

However, Dr. Thiede does caution against the continued use of some drying or irritating products during the winter months.

“If your routine includes products like benzoyl peroxide or topical retinoids like adapalene, tretinoin or tazarotene, you may want to either decrease the amount of usage and/or add an additional moisturizer to your routine as these can be drying and irritating to the skin,” she said.

2. Don’t forget sunblock!

While you may have more dull, dreary days, this doesn’t mean the sun isn’t affecting your skin. Snow and water reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your risk for sunburn. It’s important to apply sunscreen daily and to reapply every two hours in the winter, as well.

“Most adults don’t apply enough sunscreen, and, in fact, only apply 25% to 50% of the amount that they should,” Dr. Thiede noted. “Most adults need about one ounce – the size of a shot glass – to fully cover their body and a quarter of the amount for their face and chest.”

When considering a sunscreen, Dr. Thiede recommended barrier or physical sunscreens of at least SPF 30 that have active ingredients of zinc oxide or titanium oxide as these are more tolerable for sensitive skin.

[Also read “Selecting the Best Sunscreens and Protecting Your Skin.”]

3. Bump up your moisturizing routine

During the winter months, most people need to switch to a heavier moisturizer or cream or at least increase the frequency of their current moisturizer.

“If you have a tendency for dry, flaky skin, it’s important to use moisturizers (particularly ointments and creams) multiple times a day, with the most important application being immediately after showering,” Dr. Thiede said. “You simply pat dry and immediately apply your moisturizer in order to lock in moisture.”

Here are some important things to consider when choosing a moisturizer:

  • Look for products with ceramides, dimethicone and/or hyaluronic acid
  • If you have easily irritated skin, avoid products with perfumes and alcohol. “Products with the label ‘sensitive skin’ typically avoid fragrance, oils, PABA and other active ingredients that can irritate sensitive skin,” Dr. Thiede said.
  • If you tend to break out, make sure your products have the label “non-comedogenic” on them as these products will have less tendency to block your pores.
4. Lube up your lips

You probably eye them from time to time in the check-out line, but some of those flavored lip balms are doing your lips no favors. They can actually contribute to dehydrating your lips. Whoops!

“A common complaint we see is dry, chapped lips and the tendency to overuse irritating lip balm,” Dr. Thiede said. “Many people mistake discomfort, such as burning, stinging or tingling as a sign that the active ingredients are working, when in fact they are causing more irritation to their lips. Lip balms should be soothing.”

Common ingredients in lip balms you should avoid include lanolin, menthol, phenol (or phenyl), salicylic acid, any flavoring or fragrance, camphor and eucalyptus. Instead, opt for balms that contain any of the following: castor seed oil, ceramides, dimenthicone, white petroleum jelly, shea butter, hemp seed oil or mineral oil.

As well, avoid licking your lips. When your lips feel dry, it may feel natural to wet your lips by licking them, but this can worsen the problem and prevent healing. When your lips are extremely dry, use thick ointments such as white petroleum jelly.

5. Skip hot showers and baths

A hot shower or bath may feel comforting after a cold winter’s day, but it can lead to dry, itchy skin afterward. Aim for warm and short showers to prevent extra drying of the skin. And remember to pat dry and moisturize afterward.

6. Use a humidifier

Indoor central heating systems and space heaters are very drying and dehydrating. This is a great time of year to crank up the humidifier in your home and add some moisture back into the air. Having more moisture can decrease your chances for dry skin and lips.

7. Drink plenty of water

Just because it’s colder out doesn’t mean you need to skimp on water. It’s important to stay hydrated during colder months too. It can ensure you stay hydrated—inside and out.

[Check out “Busting the Myths Behind How Much Water You Should Drink.”]

8. Wear breathable fabrics

Clothing made of wool is popular during the winter months, but it is also notoriously itchy and can dry out and irritate skin. Steer clear of harsh fabrics like wool and opt for soft, breathable fabrics, such as 100% cotton. If you want to wear a wool sweater or other rough fabrics, wear a soft fabric underneath to avoid irritation to your skin.

9. Prevent dry hands and fingertips

Dry, cracked hands are a common cold weather complaint.

“We’re seeing more and more hand dermatitis from frequent hand washing as a result of the combination of cooler, dryer weather and COVID-19 and flu season,” Dr. Thiede said.

To avoid painful, dry and cracked hands and fingertips, apply a thick cream immediately after washing your hands every time. It can also help to apply a thick cream and wear cotton gloves overnight to help the cream penetrate the skin.

If you’re starting to develop deep cracks and bleeding on your hands and fingertips, it may be time to see a dermatologist for a prescription medication.

10. See a dermatologist

These at-home remedies can help keep some dry, scaly skin at bay, but don’t hesitate to reach out to a dermatologist or your health care provider if your skin symptoms don’t improve or get worse.

Scheduling an appointment with your health care provider or a dermatologist is a great way to learn more about your skin’s specific needs. They can evaluate and help treat your skin issues, analyze your skin type and give you advice on skin care products and regimens (both over the counter and prescription).

To find a Banner Health specialist near you, visit bannerhealth.com.

For other winter-related articles, check out:

Dermatology Wellness

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