According to the National Health Interview Survey, at least 81 million Americans experience dry, itchy or scaly skin during the winter months because of blasts of colder and dryer air, winter sun exposure and overheated homes and offices.
“Winter can be just as damaging to the skin as summertime is but for different reasons,” says Rebecca A. Kazin, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology and director of the Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center. “While trying to keep warm, we strip our skin of essential oils.”
Dr. Kazin’s prescription for preventing skin damage includes a heavy dose of common sense, some elements borrowed from summertime skin care, a few easy dietary shifts, and moisture, moisture, moisture.
- Proper moisturizing is a top priority. “Switch to an oil-based cream or lotion, and apply it often,” she advises.
- Use a humidifier at home and in the office, and avoid long, hot showers, however tempting they may be. Take short, lukewarm showers, and apply moisturizer while skin is still damp to keep water in the upper layers and decrease dryness and itching.
- Because frequent handwashing is recommended to prevent winter colds and flu, “use hand soap that contains moisturizing ingredients or an alcohol-free hand sanitizer,” Dr. Kazin says.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen when you’re outdoors, even on cold winter days—especially when skiing. Snow reflects 80% of sunlight, Dr. Kazin says.
- When shopping at your local natural and organic food store, remember your skin. Choose foods that are rich in antioxidants, including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and green tea. Also opt for foods with essential fatty acids, such as salmon, walnuts and canola oil.
- As always, water intake is crucial to maintaining skin health and hydration.