Five Ways to Winter-Proof Your Skin

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It’s been a cold winter and we’re hoping Groundhog Phil’s prediction of an early spring is correct. But until then, we still have the chilly weather to deal with. You’ve probably realized that the cold air outside and the heated air inside can wreak a little havoc on your skin. Skin subjected to these conditions can lose its ability to retain moisture and become extra dry, cracked and itchy as a result.

“Simple daily steps can ‘winter-proof’ the skin and help prevent more serious health conditions,” says New York dermatologist Dr. Karthik Krishnamurthy. “Bacteria love to colonize in cracks in the skin, which can lead to severe skin infections and even spread internally if not treated rapidly. This is why preventing dry skin is so important.” To keep skin hydrated and healthy during the winter months, Dr. Krishnamurthy suggests following these five tips:

1. Take good care of your skin. Shower only once daily for less than 10 minutes. The longer the shower, the more natural oils and nutrients are lost. Opt for lukewarm water and avoid very hot water. Use gentle, fragrance-free soaps and choose sponges over harsher scrubs.

2. Moisturize daily. Moisturize immediately after showering or bathing. While your skin is still wet, try applying petroleum jelly, which spreads very easily, then towel dry. “What happens is that the water cannot penetrate past the oil, so it’s forced back into your skin,” Dr. Krishnamurthy says. “Many people are skeptical, but in a few weeks are amazed by the difference and lack of greasiness, if done while the skin is still moist.”

3. Protect skin from the inside out. Poor nutrition can be a major source of skin disease. Deficiencies in B-vitamins (niacin, riboflavin) can lead to dry, itchy skin. Eating turkey, tuna, whole grains, lentils and bananas will help maintain healthy levels of B-vitamins in the body. On the other hand, ingesting beer or alcohol depletes B-vitamins and can make winter skin worse. A deficiency in vitamin C results in fragile skin, so it’s also beneficial to eat citrus fruits, green or red peppers and tomato juice. Supplementing with a multivitamin is a good idea.

4. Be aware if skin needs extra care. People with pre-existing skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis as well as those with thyroid disease are at greater risk for skin problems and discomfort during the winter. In addition, people who take multiple medications, especially the elderly, are susceptible to winter skin. Environmental conditions can also have an impact. Too much heat or not enough heat can contribute to low humidity in the home, so maintaining normal room temperature (between 67 and 74 degrees) is advised.

5. It may be cold, but don’t forget sunscreen. Although it's cold outside, the sun shines ultraviolet light year-round. In fact, it’s possible to get even more sun exposure on a snowy day than a summer day. Snow reflects ultraviolet light, so there is double exposure from above and below. Use sunscreen all year round, and choose one that is SPF 30 and also boasts UVA protection with ingredients such as zinc oxide or avobenzone.