Winterproof Your Skin

Kathleen Bowers

by Kathleen Bowers | August 17, 2010 @ 09:00AM

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Facing the Elements

We all know about the damaging effects that summer sun can have on our skin. But winter has its skin hazards, too. Cold air and wind can zap the moisture from skin, and so can the hot, dry air produced by home and office heating systems. All the effects of winter cold and indoor dry heat are more devastating to skin after the age of 40 to 45. After this age, you can't count on your skin to repair itself as quickly and easily as it did when you were younger. You'll be more subject to frostbite and windburn, too.

How to protect your skin? Read on for our winter skin care rules.

Rule #1: Put up a barrier.

The more extreme the cold is, the more extra protection your skin will need. For short excursions outdoors on mildly cold days, an extra "coat" of moisturizer may be sufficient. But for longer periods outdoors, or in biting cold weather – such as skiing or snowboarding – consider a ski mask, gloves, and other protective gear to create a solid, physical barrier between those delicate skin tissues and the cold, drying weather. Don't forget your hat – and dress in layers for extra comfort. Natural fibers are the most comfortable in cold weather, especially right next to the skin. Cotton, silk and cashmere are all good choices.

Rule #2: Establish a better winter-bath regimen.

Just as your skin needs an extra barrier to keep winter weather out, it also requires a barrier to lock in the existing moisture. Bathing and showering add water to the skin, but this moisture is quickly lost as your skin dries. To keep the moisture in, add a few drops of oil to your bath. Keep water from getting too hot. (Hot water can actually pull moisture out of the skin!) Use a good moisturizer immediately after washing too.

Look for moisturizing products that contain any of the following ingredients: vegetal squalane, sodium hyaluronate, glycerin, urea, vitamin C,or glycolic acid. And avoid products containing fragrance, acetylated lanolin, alcohol, and tallow – all of which can dry or irritate skin. Ask your doctor which products he/she recommends for your particular skin type.

On days when your skin is especially dry, or you'll be spending time outdoors in cold weather, apply your moisturizers in layers. First, apply moisturizer all over after washing, and then again after skin has dried. Apply yet another layer to exposed areas before going outdoors.

Rule #3: Drink up!

We're all aware that summer heat can lead to dehydration -- but so can the cold, dry air of winter. Perspiration evaporates more quickly in the cold. So, just as in the summer, we need to hydrate our bodies, and our skin, by drinking plenty of water – especially when we exercise, spend time outdoors, go back and forth from indoors to outdoors, and/or indulge in coffee, chocolate, salty foods, and/or alcoholic beverages.

Tip: To combat the skin-drying air produced by heaters and heating systems, try adding a humidifier to your bedroom and/or office.

Rule #4: Wear sunscreen.

Even though your skin is less likely to burn during the winter, some skin-damaging rays are just as strong as they are in the summer. Use a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

The reflective properties of snow can increase your chance of sunburn too, so for winter sports you'll need an even higher SPF than you usually use.

Rule #5: Don't forget to exercise!

When the days turn cold, we may feel less like exercising. But our bodies' need for exercise remains constant. Exercise produces better blood flow to the skin – which in turn reduces the effects of aging.

Tip: If you exercise indoors, you should be aware that some skin conditions are spread in warm, moist environments like locker rooms and gym shower areas. Protect yourself by wearing rubber sandals in community dressing and showering areas, and wipe off all exercise equipment both before and after using it.

Rule #6: Compensate for your body's seasonal changes.

Our skin doesn't produce as many fat molecules in the cell membranes as it does in warm weather. So, even if we don't spend much time outdoors, we'll need extra moisturizer to keep skin supple, especially by the mid-40s, when skin is beginning to lose fat anyway. If you're past 40, and you're winter skin is looking a little dull, you might want to consider a prescription-strength exfoliator like Renova to bring back the radiance. Or for an even more powerful treatment, ask your doctor about chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser resurfacing treatments.

Rule #7: Don't forget your lips.

Buy a lip balm for every purse, desk and jacket pocket you own – and use it several times each day, all winter. (While you're at it, make sure each one of those lip balms contains an appropriate level of sunscreen.) Because our lips don't contain oil glands, they're more susceptible to sunburn, windburn and frostbite than any other part of the face!

The information on this website is only intended as an introduction and should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor as a guarantee of the result. The best method of determining your options is to consult qualified physicians who are able to answer the specific questions related to your situation

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