Cold weather is tough on skin. Cold temperatures and low humidity levels result in dry air that draws moisture away from the skin. Harsh winter winds and dry indoor heat can make the problem worse and lead to cracked and even bleeding skin. Skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis may also flare up during these cold, dry months.
While additional moisture helps, you can do more to treat your skin. Here are some tips to help reduce chapping and redness and keep your skin healthy and comfortable until spring arrives:
- Avoid long, hot showers. While a hot bath or shower can feel great in the winter, it can strip your skin of important oils. When possible, use warm or lukewarm water instead, including when you wash your face or hands.
- Choose the best winter moisturizer for your skin. The same old moisturizer you use the rest of the year may not cut it during cold and dry months. That said, thicker doesn’t mean better when it comes to moisturizers. If you’re prone to breakouts, you want to stay away from petroleum or oil-based formulas. Look for one that contains lipids instead. Alternatively, if your skin is severely dry, you might try adding an emollient moisturizer that seals in moisture, followed by another moisturizer on top.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen. Sunscreen isn’t just for hot summer months. Winter sun, combined with glare from the snow, can seriously damage your skin. Apply sunscreen to your face and hands (if they're exposed) about 30 minutes before you go outside. Reapply frequently if you stay outside a long time.
- Say no to tanning. Many people think a tanning bed can provide the vitamin D they’re lacking during dark, short, cold days, but in fact, the damage a tanning bed can do to your skin far outweighs any temporary boost. Both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation cause cell damage that can lead to skin cancer.
- Know your skin. Whether you’re a sun worshipper or vigilant about sun safety, it’s important to examine your skin regularly and take note of any new moles or growths, and any changes in existing growths. Lesions that change, itch, bleed, or don't heal are also alarm signals. Even if you’ve carefully practiced sun safety all summer, it's important to continue being vigilant about your skin in fall, winter, and spring. Self-exams can help you identify potential skin cancers early.
- Know when to call on an expert. Seeing a dermatologist even once is a good investment. They can analyze your skin type, troubleshoot your current skin care regimen, and give you advice on the skin care products you should be using. They can also provide medication to address specific skin concerns when over-the-counter products aren’t working. And if you notice an concerning changes in your skin, it’s very important to see a dermatologist right away.
RELATED: Winter Warning: Dry Skin Ahead!