For many people, the cold clear days of winter bring more than just a rosy glow to the cheeks. They also bring uncomfortable dryness to the skin of the face, hands, and feet. For some people the problem is worse. They get skin so dry that it results in flaking, cracking, even eczema (in which the skin becomes inflamed).
1. Seek a Specialist
If you go to your local drugstore, you'll find a salesperson who can give you some good advice. That's why going to an esthetician or dermatologist even once is a good investment. Such a specialist can analyze your skin type, troubleshoot your current skin care regimen, and give you advice on the skin care products you should be using. But that doesn't mean you'll be stuck buying high-end products. "Inexpensive products work just as well as high-end ones," says David Voron, MD, a dermatologist in Arcadia, Calif. "In fact, the extra price you pay for the expensive stuff is often just for packaging and marketing. What's most important is how your skin responds to the product -- and how you like its feel, not how much money you paid for it."
2. Moisturize More
You may have found a moisturizer that works just fine in spring and summer. But as weather conditions change, so your skin care routine should also change. Find an "ointment" moisturizer that's oil-based, rather than water-based, as the oil will create a protective layer on the skin that retains more moisture than a cream or lotion. (Hint: Many lotions labeled as "night creams" are oil-based.) But choose your oils carefully because all oils may not be appropriate for the face. Instead, look for "nonclogging" oils, like avocado oil, mineral oil, primrose oil, or almond oil. Shea oil -- or butter -- is controversial, because it can clog facial pores. And vegetable shortening, La Plante says, is a really bad idea. "It would just sit on the skin," she says. "And it would be really greasy." You can also look for lotions containing "humectants", a class of substances (including glycerine, sorbitol, and alpha-hydroxyl acids) that attract moisture to your skin.
3. Give Your Hands a Hand
The skin on your hands is thinner than on most parts of the body and has fewer oil glands. That means it's harder to keep your hands moist, especially in cold, dry weather. This can lead to itchiness and cracking. Wear gloves when you go outside; if you need to wear wool to keep your hands warm, slip on a thin cotton glove first, to avoid any irritation the wool might cause.
4. Hydrate for Your Health, Not for Your Skin
Possibly you've heard it a thousand times: drinking water helps your skin stay young looking. In fact, it's a myth. Water is good for your overall health and "the skin of someone who is severely dehydrated will benefit from fluids. But the average person's skin does not reflect the amount of water being drunk," Kenneth Bielinski, a dermatologist in Oak Lawn, tells "It's a very common misconception. I see clients at the spa who drink their 10 to 12 glasses of water a day and still have super dry skin. It just doesn't do that much."
5. Grease Up Your Feet
Yes, those minty foot lotions are lovely in the hot summer months, but during the winter, your feet need stronger stuff. Try lotions that contain petroleum jelly or glycerin instead. And use exfoliants to get the dead skin off periodically; that helps any moisturizers you use to sink in faster and deeper.