Cold weather, overheated buildings and wind are tough on everyone’s skin, but some of us feel it more than others. I know my skin starts to feel dry and tight in patches by Labor Day. I will get into more specific products in the next few days, but first some fundamental do’s and don’ts of how my skin survives winter dryness:
Do avoid products with alcohol — It boggles my mind how many allegedly deep moisturizing hand creams and body lotions have alcohol as their second or third ingredient. Alcohol dries out skin. Do read labels and avoid products with alcohol.
Do exfoliate — I prefer sugar scrubs for this purpose. Exfoliating works against those tight patches of skin many of us get on our legs, and prepare the skin better for heavy moisturizers. For the face, I like soaps with lactic acid and mild physical exfoliants like almond. Do be careful not to tug too hard when you exfoliate. And don’t exfoliate more than three or four times a week, as you don’t want to overdo it. That said, I sometimes exfoliate every day for a few weeks, and have noticed no adverse effect as long as I listen to my skin.
Do drink lots of water — If you are sick of water, do try making your own cucumber water or lemon water at home. An inexpensive pitcher, a few slices of lemon or cucumber, and some water does the trick. I have been meaning to try the spa-water-at-home routine for years now. Maybe this winter will be it. But I do drink a lot of water, and it really does help.
Do stay away from caffeine — I drink too much chai (and worse, I drink too much chai from Starbucks), but I tell myself the calcium in the milk counterbalances the effects of caffeine. Don’t do as I do, do as I say — minimize the caffeine, as it dehydrates both you and your skin.
Do use products with oils, shea butter, cocoa butter, honey and other skin-loving ingredients — These are really the foolproof ingredients to relieve dryness. They work best on freshly exfoliated skin and in larger quantities. Some drugstore lotions claim to have shea butter. They do have some, but not in high enough concentrations to really have an impact. Often the effect of smoothness after use is due to the silicones in the lotion that gives a sense of artificial smoothness, rather than deep moisturizing.
Don’t take really hot showers — this is another do as I say, not necessarily do as I do. Hot water can be extremely drying, particularly if you, like me, likes to stay in the shower for a while.
Don’t be afraid of oil — It is a common misnomer that oil clogs pores. Oil, like many things, comes in good and bad kinds. Mineral oil does clog pores, but skin-loving oils like olive oil, jojoba oil and almond oil all have benefits for the skin. Best yet — they are like a shot of concentrated moisture, and ideal for parched winter skin.
Don’t use products with sulfates — I have been getting some questions on whether sulfates are really that bad for you. There are reports that sulfates are skin and eye irritants. Honestly, I don’t know quite how awful sulfates are on an objective level, but I DO know they dry my skin out.
Don’t use products with parabens — While there are currently no reports on parabens being drying, at the end of the day, products with parabens are more likely to have alcohol or sulfates or silicones in them. Therefore by excluding products with parabens, you can more easily exclude products with ingredients you want to avoid. At the end of the day, though, just avoid parabens, even if they don’t dry out your skin!
Coming up in the next few days: oils, butters, emollients and moisturizers.
General Disclosures & Disclaimers