Up until this week, in most parts of the country, the weather has been very mild. Now that the really cold weather has arrived (along with the wind and snow) and we are turning the heat up in our homes and offices, many of us are experiencing dry, itchy winter skin. The reason that we get so dry is because moisture diffuses from our skin cells (which are composed primarily of water) into the air. This leaves our skin parched, dull, ashen and even cracked. Heating systems produce very dry air which further robs our skin of moisture. Five easy steps can help heal dry skin, renew it and leave soft, supple, beautiful skin.
- Limit your baths or showers to 5-minutes and only bathe once a day. Turn the temperature of the water down so that you are now using warm (not hot) water. I know that it is difficult to give up those wonderful long, hot showers or baths, especially on cold mornings, but these changes will make a big difference in preventing natural oils from being stripped from your skin.
- Use a mild soap or liquid cleanser during the winter months (you can use your deodorant soap next summer) and minimize the amount of soap that you apply to your skin. Unless you are a mud wrestler, you just need a small amount of soap. Many people put so much soap on their skin that they cannot see their normal skin tone (that's way too much). Also, consider using liquid cleansers that contain petrolatum which seals moisture into the skin.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisture. First, apply your moisturizer to damp skin (slather it on within 2-3 minutes of getting out of the bath or shower). Plan to use your moisturizer at least two times a day (morning and night), or more. The moisturizer that you select does not need to be expensive to be effective. Look for thick and rich ointments and creams for the winter. For extra dry skin look for products that contain lactic acid or urea. Other effective ingredients include dimethicone and glycerin which help draw water to the skin and keep it there. Finally, lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum (also known as petroleum jelly) trap water in the skin. For many people, their skin quickly absorbs the moisturizer and they find that they must reapply it frequently throughout the day.
- Invest in a humidifier or for an inexpensive solution, place plants around the room. A humidifier can add much needed moisture to dry air. Plants with large leaves can also effectively increase moisture in the air (after you water them, the water diffused up the stem and out into the air). Another solution is to place bowls of water in the room that you spend most of your time in. The water will evaporate and add moisture to the air.
- Protect your skin from the cold and the wind with scarves, hats and gloves. Clothing can make a big difference but avoid wearing wool and other rough materials next to the skin. Clothing can help protect the skin from the cold, dry air, which can zap moisture from the skin.
Remember, we only have 3 or 4 more months of winter left so as soon as the spring comes, you can go back to your old habits including long, luxurious baths or showers, deodorant soaps and hot water.