Winterproof Your Skin

How to maintain healthy skin year round

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

Taking care of your skin in the summer seems like a breeze since the main goal is simply protecting the skin's outer layer from the sun. But what about in the winter?

The winter can prove a more challenging time for skin care simply because many people figure there chance of a sunburn is low so their skin must not need special care in the winter.

Though the skin may be a fairly low maintenance organ, it still requires some cold weather care -- especially if you want to be ready to show some skin once the weather begins to warm.

"Summer is easy because it's all about sunscreen and protective clothing," notes Dr. Steven Feldman, a professor of dermatology, pathology and public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

"When it comes to winter it's all about keeping moisturized."

Try these tips to keep your skin moisturized and protected through those chilly winter months.

Moisturize your skin

During the chilly winter months, one of the most important steps you can take is regularly moisturizing your skin. The key is to find a moisturizer that you enjoy using since it will make you more inclined to use it regularly. Those in warmer climates such as Florida may want to consider a moisturizer that includes sunscreen, though the average person will find they don't need the added sun protection during the cooler months.

"More expensive does not mean better for your skin," noted Dr. Feldman. "You just need to find one you like so you will be inclined to use it."

Try using a moisturizer that is thicker than one you would use during cooler months to help offset the frosty climate change.

Use gentle soaps

Strong or harsh soaps can dry out the skin, even to the point of negating the moisturizer you're using. Choose one that is effective, yet gentle.

Look for soaps and cleansers that are marked dermatologist recommended such as Dove, Cetaphil or Neutrogena, keeping in mind that not everyone benefits from the same soap. It could take a few tries to find the right one, particularly if you have skin conditions such as acne or rosacea.

Don't exfoliate

Love the look and feel of smooth skin after exfoliating? It might have a lot of appeal, but Dr. Feldman advises against it regardless of the season.

"The whole concept of exfoliation disturbs me. The skin is covered with a dead layer which protects the tissue. I don't see the benefit of removing that layer," Dr. Feldman said.

"The skin is an amazing organ. It faces temperatures of over 100 degrees in the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter, and the skin just goes along with it. It's a very resilient organ, but the skin does not expose living tissue to the outside world."

Avoid hot water and liquid detergent if you have dry or sensitive skin

Individuals with skin that is particularly dry or sensitive may find it's best to avoid bathing or washing their face in overly hot water since it tends to sap moisture from the skin. Liquid detergent also can have a drying effect on skin so skip it if your skin is particularly dry.

Try taking briefer showers in cool or lukewarm water to help your skin retain maximum moisture.

Try dermatologist recommended products for psoriasis or rosacea

Individuals with psoriasis or rosacea may find the winter months particularly tricky. Dr. Feldman said avoiding irritation is one of the most important aspects. This means using mild cleansers. Some may find that fragrance-free products are easier on their skin.

Other sufferers may find that they receive the most benefit from sensitive skin products that are oil free, hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog pores. Try several and see which one works best for you.

Limit alcohol and hot beverages if suffering from rosacea flares

Alcohol and extremely hot drinks can contribute to redness and breakouts. Make a conscious effort to avoid them if you are suffering from wintertime rosacea flare ups since both can aggravate the condition.

Craving coffee or perhaps hot apple cider? Don't avoid it altogether, simply give it enough time to cool and drink it while it is warm, but not extra hot. Alcohol in small doses may be fine for many rosacea sufferers, but some may find it best to avoid it altogether.

Skip the tanning bed

Some look to tanning beds to make up for the lack of sun during the winter months. According to Dr. Feldman: "It's just plain bad for the skin." In addition to a heightened risk of skin cancer, tanning bed enthusiasts also risk premature aging.

"If you want to look old and wrinkled as soon as possible, the tanning bed is the way to do it," Dr. Feldman said. "Everything associated with aging is associated with UV (ultraviolet) light exposure."

Dr. Feldman said that some patients use the tanning beds because they are physically addicted to the relaxing feeling they get from lying inside the tanning machines, which stems from a release of endorphins in their skin. He suggests trying physical exercise instead, which should offer the same feeling of relaxation.

If you're really set on having a golden tan during the winter months consider using a sunless tanning cream or getting a spray tan. Neither uses UV light so there are no harmful effects to the skin. Both offer a temporary tan, which gradually fades.

Get plenty of rest and eat healthy

Don't skimp on sleep during the winter months. In addition to making sure you get plenty of shut eye, make sure you are consuming a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and lean meats, while drinking ample amounts of water. Skip soda and processed snacks, which are often full of empty calories.

Poor sleep and eating habits can create nutritional deficits that could not only affect your skin, but also put you at a higher risk for a myriad of diseases.

Don't forget vitamins and supplements

Consider supplementing your diet with vitamins, antioxidants and supplements to give your skin and overall health a boost. Some vitamins, minerals and other nutrients may aid the skin by providing a healthy glow.

Supplementing your diet with a healthy dose of vitamins could not only keep your skin in tiptop shape by improving the way it looks and feels, but also help it look years younger.

Review Date: 
December 28, 2011