By now your skin is feeling the winter. It’s only January, and the weather has already fluctuated from chilly and dry one week to warm and damp the next. These are not ideal conditions for healthy looking and feeling skin, unless you know how to combat Texas’ winter months.
However, Dr. Ted Lain, Austin-based dermatologist and Chief Medical Officer at Sanova Dermatology, has tips to restore, heal, and protect your skin between January and March.
Restore & heal: replace moisture in the skin
If your skin feels scaly and dry from the cold weather, you’ll want to restore it using a moisturizer. “In winter, the humidity level drops and that pulls moisture out of your skin” says Dr. Lain. “To replenish lost hydration, drink lots of water and use a good moisturizer so skin doesn’t become drier, leading to redness and itchiness.”
Dr. Lain recommends using creams or ointments (versus lotions) in winter months to moisturize facial skin. Ingredients such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid also help draw water back into the skin. One of Dr. Lain’s go-to creams for wintertime is La Roche Posay’s Double Repair Moisturizer UV with SPF 30 ($19.99 at Dermstore.com) and Supergoop’s Superscreen Daily Moisturizer ($38 at Supergoop.com).
Ointments can add an extra layer to the skin, protecting it from wintertime skin conditions like eczema. Although eczema is commonly associated with children, adults can also experience the itchy, red rash. Eczema develops in winter because of the cold, after contact with an irritant (clothing, soap) or because you’re genetically predisposed to developing it. People who suffer from very dry skin or eczema can use Aquaphor or Vaseline (both under $10 at HEB) after applying a body cream.
Protect the skin: Wintertime sunscreens
Even though it’s cold outside, Dr. Lain reminds all his patients use sunscreen daily. Women can apply it under their makeup foundation. Men should use a moisturizing sunscreen after they shave. And of course, if you’re hitting the beach or the mountains for a winter escape, remember to bring plenty of sunscreen with at least an SPF 30.
“There are two types of sun rays that can hurt the skin, UVA and UVB,” explains Dr Lain. “UVB intensity wanes in wintertime and is not very worrisome. UVA intensity, however, does not vary by season, and since UVA rays are the most responsible for causing sun damage and skin cancer, year-round sunscreen use is incredibly important.”
Dr. Lain recommends SkinCeuticals Ultimate UV Defense SPF 30 ($40 at Dermstore.com) as his go-to wintertime sunscreen recommendation.
More expert wintertime tips for healthy skin
– Run a cold humidifier while sleeping to replenish the air’s humidity and stop water loss from the skin.
– Limit shower time and lower water temperature to avoid further stripping the skin of moisture. The ideal shower temperature for winter is lukewarm, likely much cooler than most of us prefer.
– Exfoliation, either with a sugar scrub or a loofah, is a nice way to get rid of dead skin on your torso or limbs and prep the skin for moisturizing. While abrasive exfoliators are fine for the body, Dr. Lain prefers exfoliating washes with either lactic acid, glycolic acid, or salicylic acid for the face. With both washes and scrubs, apply the product to the skin and rub it across the skin gently in a circular manner, stopping after 30 seconds. Aggressive exfoliation can alter the skin’s ability to retain hydration, leading to rashes like eczema. Reminder: never exfoliate areas that are already red, itchy or inflamed.
Dr. Lain (@DrLain) has practiced dermatology in Austin for over a decade and recently merged his two Austin-based practices with Sanova Dermatology. He joins KVUE for a monthly television segment and his skincare advice can be read in Health.com, Refinery29, Elle.com and more.
Cover photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash