We bet you’re getting tired of dry skin season, but you don’t have
to wait until the snow melts to get relief for those chapped cheeks, cracked lips and itchy shins.
Even as winter ends, it doesn’t seem to want to lessen its grip, and the long-term forecast is tight, itchy, red complexions. “We know that cold air holds less water than warm air, so in the wintertime, skin is more susceptible to the drop in humidity,” says Dr. Susan Poelman, a dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Calgary. But a few easy changes to your skin-care routine can keep skin hydrated and happy from head to toe.
1. Shower Smarter
Stick to brief, warm rinses of not more than 10 minutes, preferably just twice a week. Daily steam-up-the-bathroom-mirror-style showers are off-limits because too much hot water will dry skin out. And so will using your favourite body wash, very likely. “Soap is the biggest dry-skin enemy,” says Dr. Poelman. “Use it only under the arms, around the groin and on your feet—you don’t need soap anywhere else unless your skin is obviously soiled,” she says. That’s because soap changes the natural pH level of the skin, disrupting lipid production, which contributes to parched complexions. People with dryness issues should opt for very gentle body washes and face cleansers designed for sensitive skin. (In the morning, you can even skip the facial cleanser and just splash your face with tepid water before you moisturize.) Think “soak and smear,” says Dr. Poelman. “Immediately after the shower, pat dry and smear in a cream right away to seal in moisture.”
2. Buff it Out
Whether it’s done with a manual scrub or a product containing ingredients like lactic acid or fruit acids, exfoliating should be done with care, warns Cassandra Bradshaw, lead skin therapist at Province Apothecary’s Holistic Skincare Clinic in Toronto. “We use so many things every day that are already exfoliating that it’s easy to overdo it,” she says. If you’re cleansing your face with a rough-textured washcloth and using an exfoliating serum, for example, you’re already doubling up your efforts. But, if you think your complexion could use a little bit of extra buffing, especially during the dry winter season, gentle manual exfoliants twice a week for the face and body should be plenty, she says. Opt for a very mild scrub that contains ingredients like oats to nourish, soothe and hydrate while sloughing off those dead skin flakes.
3. Slather on the Serum
Once your face is buffed, it’s primed and ready for moisture. Start with a serum containing vitamin C. “It can repair any damage to the skin caused by UV exposure, environmental pollution or stress,” says Dr. Poelman. Follow that with your daily SPF 30 (yes, it’s essential whether you’re hitting the slopes or simply walking to and from the office). After your SPF soaks in, apply your moisturizer.
4. Go Heavy on the Creams
Shelve the light face lotion and level up with a seriously hydrating cream containing ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid. They’ll help to protect the skin’s natural barrier, locking in moisture and preventing redness and irritation. “Sometimes people have the misconception that thick or heavy creams can make you break out, so they avoid them,” says Dr. Poelman. “But creams tend to be more hydrating, so for the body it’s good to switch.” Just look for products with the label ‘non-comedogenic’ for your face, meaning they won’t clog pores.
For sensitive complexions, Bradshaw recommends layering a third line of defence on after your serum: “One thing I always recommend is a using a face balm,” she says. “For dry skin sufferers, it’s the perfect finale in a moisture-sealing ritual.” Dab it on to spot-treat chapped cheeks, for example, or smooth it over your face to seal in moisture.
Keep the skin on your body hydrated with a rich butter or thick all-over product. Avocado, shea butter and pumpkin seed oil are other nourishing ingredients that will help to soothe and soften dry patches on your legs, arms or torso. If you have itchy spots, like on your shins, try your best not to scratch, warns Dr. Poelman. This can worsen the problem and even lead to infection if you break the skin. Soothe the area with frequent applications of a lavish, fragrance-free cream. “One good tip is to keep your moisturizer in the fridge because if it’s cool it’s going to be soothing,” she says.
5. Make Time for a Mask
After going through your bedtime skin-care ritual, take a few minutes, once or twice per week, to treat your epidermis to a nourishing mask. Pick one you can sleep in or one you can wear for a few minutes while you go about the rest of your nighttime routine. It’ll do wonders for a parched face and neck, but don’t forget your hands and feet, too. “I tell my patients they can make their own masks by mixing coconut oil with their favourite fragrance-free cream,” says Dr. Poelman. After a shower or bath (or soaking your hands or feet in warm—not hot—water for 10 minutes), apply a thick layer of your rich DIY mask to your hands and/or feet, then cover up with cotton gloves or socks before you tuck into bed. “That has the desired effect of hydrating the skin by trapping the moisture,” she says. “It’s really quite effective.”
It's the Balm
This natural wonder has achieved cult status for a reason. Celebs from Julia Roberts to Victoria Beckham praise it for the ultra-thick texture and dewy finish it leaves behind. Use it anywhere and everywhere skin needs a shot of hydration.
Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream, $23, well.ca.
It's the Balm
Tuck into bed with this next-level sleeping mask that locks in moisture. The cooling gel essence is powered by rosewater and hyaluronic acid.
Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Sleeping Mask, $66, sephora.ca.