The first sign of winter, which officially starts on December 21st this year, is for me an itchy back, followed by cracking lips. Those are just the beginning of the onslaught of sweater-weather complexion issues, though. These days — 15 years of New York winters have taught me a thing or two — I make sure to react fast and, when possible, actually pre-empt the winter skin blues. Whether you are prone to mild redness, painful cracks or something in between, there’s a simple solution. Here are some symptoms that you might recognize and my suggestions for treating them.
Winter air is often dry and accompanied by harsh winds that whip away the skin’s natural sebum and the hydrolipid film that protects it. Go for a moisturizer that’s extra-rich to protect the skin barrier. I have even been known to use a night cream during the day. The perfect antidote for skin that is stripped of its own is a facial oil. Even if you don’t like facial oil, think again; a good oil is not oily, but simply nourishing and leaves the skin feeling supple and comfortable.
Dryness and dehydration aren’t synonymous. Dry skin lacks oil while dehydrated skin lacks water (see more on dry vs dehydrated skin). The lack of humidity in the air, as well as indoor heat, can zap water from your skin, thus lowering its moisture levels and causing a rough texture. For dehydrated skin, look for ingredients that attract and retain water, such as phospholipids and hyaluronic acid.
Dandruff (not just on your scalp)
I received a press release the other day about “leg dandruff,” and after a millisecond doubletake, I realized that this is a condition that I actually know all too well. Legs encased in winter tights become extremely dry and flakey. Double down on the best body lotion you can lay your hands on. Try ASDM Porcelain Doll Lotion ($25).
Obviously, the scalp gets winter dandruff, but perhaps you’ve noticed that your eyebrow area can get itchy and flakey as well. Look for a lightweight conditioning treatment that will hydrate without causing buildup. Try Truth Vitality Brow Empower ($39 in the shop), which has emu oil, for brow conditioning. And for hair, try Dr. Dennis Gross Root Resilience Scalp Conditioner ($38).
Dry hands and feet
I don’t really get the rallying call for sandal-ready feet, since in the summer my tootsies are usually fairly happy. No, it is in winter that my feet need the extra TLC. Your hands and feet have fewer sebaceous glands than the rest of your skin. What’s more, they are bearing the bunt of wind chill and slushy streets. I find that in winter, heavy-hitting hand and foot creams are a regular part of my regimen.
Try Pure Glam Peppermint Grapefruit Hand and Foot Repair ($28) and Deciem Hand Chemistry Retin Oil ($20 in the shop).
Temperatures plummet and your once clear arms and legs become “chicken skin.” KP can be irritating as well as unsightly. It is tempting to go at this condition with a scrub, but this can make matters red, rough and worse. The best solution is gentle exfoliation with alpha hydroxyl acids, follow by a good moisturizing lotion.
Try a lotion and glycolic acid exfoliator all-in-one with ASDM Beverly Hills Glycolic Acid Complex Lotion ($35).
Red nose and cheeks
Constant nose-blowing, cold air and variations in temperature make me see red. The combo of red nose and glowing cheeks is Angry Rudolph — not cute. I find that a relatively new anti-aging ingredient, teprenone, can be very helpful as it helps to constrict blood vessels and calms rosacea.
Try Medik8 Red Alert ($60 in the shop).
What are your favorite solutions for winter skin? Let me know in the comments below!