On a cold winter day, thereís nothing better than turning up the thermostat and taking a nice hot shower. Or if youíre the type to embrace the snow, you might head outdoors for some skiing or ice-skating. Whether indoors or out, however, donít forget about your skin. Winter weather can wreak havoc on your bodyís largest organ, so stock up on some tips for keeping your skin in good health.
1. Become a moisturizing expert: According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), ointments and creams tend to be more effective than lotions. Itís not necessary to spend a lot of money to get the best results. The best way to shop for effective skin care products is by ingredients, not price. Look for Hyaluronic acid, for example, which is already found naturally in your skin to help hold water, and simply diminishes with age. Lactic acid and urea are ingredients to look for to relieve dry skin. Glycerin, dimethicone and lanolin are other substances that can help skin attract and retain moisture.
The AAD also recommends applying moisturizer within three minutes of exiting a shower or bath. Since moisturizer does not hydrate your skin, but rather locks in existing water, you need to prevent evaporation as quickly as possible. After the first application, you can re-apply throughout the day whenever necessary.
2. Beware of chemicals: Dermatologist Peter Helton, Medical Director of the Helton Skin and Laser Institute in Newport Beach, California reminds his patients to protect themselves from harsh, every day substances. Even if a bottle of home cleaner or solvent doesnít recommend the use of gloves, covering your hands is a worthwhile step. Dish soaps, bleach, solvents and more can drain valuable oils and moisture from your skin, leaving you with red, cracked and flaky outer layers. Cleaning chemicals arenít the only harsh substances to watch out for - many skin care products contain irritating fragrances, alcohol, deodorants, etc. Dr. Helton recommends sticking with gentle skin cleansers like Cetaphilģ.
3. Hydrate from within: If you feel healthy on the inside, chances are you look healthy on the outside. To keep your skin from showing the effects of cold weather damage, take action from every angle. Board-certified Dermatologist Lisa Benest swears by walnuts, canola oil and ground flaxseeds, as well as Vitamin E goodies like green leafy vegetables for healthy skin. Dr. Benest also notes that eight glasses of water per day is crucial, and avoiding caffeine may be necessary if youíre prone to extremely dry skin.
If your skin just wonít stop cracking, itching or even bleeding, talk to your doctor. While special prescription treatment may be necessary, basic at-home skin care can greatly improve the health of this complex organ. Winter or summer, sunscreen is a must to help keep skin youthful and prevent skin cancer. Donít forget your lips, even when itís cold. A Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or greater is recommended.
Want more skin tips from the American Academy of Dermatology? Visit www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/winter_skin.html and www.aad.org.
For more advice from Dr. Peter Helton, see www.drhelton.com/pages/winterskincaretips.html.
Dr. Lisa Benest is currently the National Skin Care Instituteís featured dermatologist. Learn more at www.skincarenet.org.