Protect Your Skin This Season

Happy young woman applying cleansing moisturizing skin cream on face. Girl taking care of dry complexion layering moisturizer. Skincare.

Some things — like humor, wine, and shampoo — are great when they’re dry. The largest organ in your body isn’t one of those things.

The winter months can be especially cruel to skin, leaving it dry, itchy, scaly, bloody, and all manner of other uncomfortable adjectives. Nina M. Scott, the president of Dermatology Specialists Research, attributes winter skin woes to a change in the air inside and out: The air outside is dryer in winter, while people inside are cranking up the heat.

But your dermal discomfort doesn’t have to last for the season. Scott and the American Academy of Dermatology have a few tips to keep the roughness at bay.

The most widely applicable advice, according to Scott: avoid using harsh cleansers (over-the-counter acne treatments are common offenders) or staying in the shower for too long. Apply lotion as soon as you step out of that shower, because your pores are more open then, allowing moisturizers to do their magic more efficiently.

The AAP has similar advice on cleansers and cleansing, suggesting that you use gentle, fragrance-free cleansers—and keeping the amount you apply small enough that you don’t see a thick lather. The AAP also advises limiting showers and baths to 5 to 10 minutes and blotting your skin with a towel to dry off.

The key to protecting your skin, Scott says, is taking care of it all day. For example, Scott carries travel and sample size bottles of lotion in her purse and car so she can put it on as needed throughout her day. She suggests that people hoping to protect their skin from winter’s worst pick out a cream or lotion that they like and, “basically, reapply it all day long.”

But don’t limit your topical TLC to the day. Scott says people who want to protect their skin should have a nightly regimen as well. Some Dermatology Specialists Research clients who have severe issues wear cotton socks or—if they can tolerate them—cotton gloves over moisturizer on their feet and hands at night. Scott adds that having a humidifier can help alleviate the dry air’s effects.

“Anything you can do before bed is good practice,” she says.

Because everyone’s skin is different, it’s hard to anticipate which products or ingredients might agitate an individual. The AAP warns that products containing alcohol, fragrance, or alpha-hydroxy acids might aggravate dry skin. But Scott says it’s helpful to be aware of which products tend to be gentle enough for most people. She lists Vaseline, Cetaphil, and CeraVe as brands that tend to be the most widely used among dermatologists and their patients, and she points out that some people opt to use products meant for babies’ skin.

If treating yourself like a baby doesn’t leave you with baby-smooth skin, it might be time to call a pro.

Scott and the AAP both suggest calling a dermatologist for skin problems that persist despite home treatment. She cites skin issues such as a persistent red, itchy rash or splits or cracking, especially on tips on the fingertips, as problems that often require a prescription-strength treatment.

And no matter what you put on your body, Scott suggests that you remember what you put into your body, too. She recommends drinking plenty of water. The practice might not cure dry skin, she says, but it doesn’t hurt, either.

When it comes to hydration, she says, “Inside out is important, too.” VT

For more information on Dermatology Specialists Research, visit dsrtrials.com

STORY BY JESSICA STEPHENS