Winter skin care essentials

During the winter, most people find that their skin gets drier. This is partly due to the winter weather – cold air and winds dry out the skin. It is also partly due to the things people do to cope with winter, such as turning up the heat and taking hot baths or showers.

As soon as the temperature starts to drop in the fall, it's time to switch to a winter skin care routine. Good winter skin care means changes to the way you clean, moisturize and protect your skin, as well as to your diet, lifestyle and environment.

Bathing: It might seem that a nice hot bath would help keep your skin moist. But hot water actually dries out the skin. Use lukewarm water instead. Spending a long time in the bath or shower can also make your skin drier. Try to limit yourself to about 10 minutes. And use a cleanser that is free of soap and alcohol – soap, alcohol-based cleansers and bubble bath can make your skin drier by removing the protective lipids or oils that help your skin hold onto moisture. If you prefer using soaps, choose one that’s mild and non-perfumed.

Moisturizing: Moisturizing is a critical step in winter skin care. After your bath or shower, pat your skin dry with a towel and apply moisturizer immediately. This way, the moisturizer helps hold moisture in the skin. Moisturizer will also help protect your skin from moisture loss during the day. The choice of moisturizer will depend on your skin type. For more oily skin, an oil-free, non-comedogenic (not causing blemishes) lotion can be used. For drier skin, a cream, which contains more lipids or oils and moisturizing agents, is a good choice. Some areas of the skin, such as hands, feet, elbows, nose and lips, are more prone to dryness and may need extra attention. Carry around a small tube of moisturizer and lip balm to give a quick moisture boost throughout the day.

At home: Although cold air dries the skin, the hot dry air that comes from indoor heating can also be a culprit. If you don't have a climate meter (a device that tells you what the temperature and humidity is in your home), consider getting one. If your home is dry, you may want to invest in a humidifier. If this is not an option, you can also try boiling some water or putting a heat-safe bowl of water on the radiator to increase the moisture in the air.

Lifestyle: The healthier you are, the healthier your skin will be. In the winter, you may not feel as thirsty, but you still need plenty of water each day to stay hydrated. Keep a "drinking water cup" nearby at home and work to help you get enough fluid. You will need to drink water throughout the day, not just at meals. Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as non-saturated fats (such as fish oils). Other lifestyle changes that will help your skin include quitting smoking, limiting your use of alcohol, and getting aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week.

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