(BPT) - The wrath of winter can take on many forms, like below-freezing temperatures, icy roads and travel delays, but it doesn’t end there. In case you haven’t already noticed, winter takes a toll on your skin, too. From dry, red, itchy patches and flaky, tight skin flare-ups of bothersome conditions like eczema and psoriasis, this wintry mix is one that nobody wants to deal with. Fortunately, with a few simple steps you can help your skin stay moisturized and protected so it looks and feels its best all winter long.
"The winter weather presents a host of harsh conditions, so we often turn to portable heaters and toasty fireplaces to keep spaces cozy and warm, but all of these components can zap skin of moisture," says board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entiere Dermatology, Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin. "While you can't change the season, you can change your skincare routine and other daily habits to help simultaneously combat these uncomfortable winter skin conditions and nourish your skin."
Dr. Levin recommends five steps for fighting flare-ups and moisturizing skin throughout the winter months:
Step 1: Replenish moisture in the skin with hydrating skincare products
Skin becomes drier and more sensitive in the winter with the onset of colder temperatures, thanks to indoor central heating, gusty winds and long warm showers. Gentle cleansing and moisturizing with hydrating products is essential to maintain a healthy and hydrated skin barrier.
Additionally, swap out your lotions with creams and ointments, which are more hydrating and effective for the winter season. Look for gentle products that are fragrance-free and have the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance to avoid further irritating sensitive skin.
Step 2: Use products that contain ceramides
Use skincare products that contain ceramides, a key ingredient for maintaining healthy skin. Ceramides, which are naturally found in the skin, are lipids that help form the skin’s protective barrier and retain moisture. Like brick and mortar, ceramides act as the glue holding skin cells together. When skin lacks ceramides, the barrier becomes compromised and can result in dryness and irritation. Ceramide deficiency occurs naturally over time, but winter conditions like harsh winds and blistering cold can exacerbate the deficiency. Those prone to conditions like eczema and psoriasis already have reduced ceramide levels and can be especially impacted by this. Be sure to replenish your skin to restore the protective barrier and lock in hydration by moisturizing with products that contain ceramides, like CeraVe Healing Ointment, which can help restore the skin barrier, while relieving dry, cracked and chafed skin.
Step 3: Don’t forget key parts of your body
Hands: Hands become incredibly chapped and dry in the winter months with frequent hand washing and cold weather exposure. Use a moisturizing cream throughout the day and, if necessary, at the end of the day, apply ointment and wear light knit gloves to let it soak in.
Feet: While the hands are regularly exposed to the windy winter weather conditions, feet can also become dry or even cracked in the winter. Apply the CeraVe Healing Ointment to feet when relaxing at the end of the day and slip on socks.
Lips: The lips aren’t easily covered and protected, so this sensitive area of the body is susceptible to loss of moisture, dryness and chapping. Apply healing ointment throughout the day and again before bed to wear overnight for added hydration while you sleep.
Step 4: Set your skin up for comfort indoors
You can’t control the weather, but you can control what’s happening indoors. Long, hot showers and baths may be comforting after a cold day, but they can actually worsen dry skin. Use lukewarm water instead of hot and limit your time to 5-10 minutes. Once you’re finished, apply a moisturizer immediately after drying off to lock hydration in.
Additionally, setting the thermostat higher can dry out skin, so consider using a humidifier to add moisture back into the air and if possible, get a small one for your cubicle or office. Since you spend the majority of time in the workplace during the week, be sure to keep moisturizers readily available so you can use throughout the day.
Step 5: Cover up when braving the winter weather
Your skin can easily dry out from direct exposure to cold air and wind, but the more protected skin is, the more intact the skin barrier will remain. Wear hats, gloves and scarves when you’ll be outdoors for extended periods of time, like while skiing or at an outdoor sporting event, to protect your skin as much as possible. Once you get home, change your clothes so your skin isn’t exposed to cold, wet clothes for long periods of time.
"Despite the challenges of the season, with a little proactive effort, skin can still look and feel healthy and hydrated," Dr. Levin says. "The key is to take action now and stay vigilant with your new routine."