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Protect your skin from winter weather

Winter weather can be cruel to your skin, leaving it dry, cracked and irritated. Sometimes, it can even cause skin to bleed. If you live in a cold climate, you might think there's nothing you can do but wait for spring. But that's not the case. There are a variety of simple things that may help keep your skin healthy in this chilly season.

Go easy on your epidermis

In the winter, humidity levels tend to be low. With less moisture in the air, your skin may become dry. Maintaining the moisture you have in your skin and keeping skin irritation to a minimum will help your outermost layer stay in the best possible shape.

To do that, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) offers these tips:

Bathe daily. A shower or bath can replenish your skin's moisture. But it has to be done correctly:

  • Close your bathroom door when bathing. This will raise the humidity level, making the air less dry.
  • Limit bathing time to 5 to 10 minutes. Spending more than 10 minutes in the bath or shower can actually cause your skin to lose moisture.
  • Use warm—not hot—water. Hot water strips the skin of natural oils more quickly than warm water. These oils help keep your skin hydrated.
  • Use a mild soap. Deodorant soaps and products containing alcohol and strong fragrances can also deplete natural oils. A moisturizing, fragrance-free product is preferable. Apply it with your hands rather than a cloth or sponge.
  • Pat your skin dry. Gently dabbing is less irritating to the skin than vigorously rubbing it, and it helps keep moisture in.

Moisturize. To help seal moisture in your skin, apply an ointment within a few minutes of exiting your shower or bath. (Creams and ointments offer better protection against moisture loss than lotions, according to the AAD.) Look for products containing olive oil, shea butter, petrolatum, mineral oil, lactic acid, urea, dimethicone or glycerin. 

Shave with care. Hair tends to be softer after a shower or bath, so shave then to lessen the chances of irritating your skin. Use shaving cream or gel, and keep it on the skin for at least three minutes before starting. Then shave in the direction that your hair grows. At a minimum, change the blades of your razor after every five to seven shaves.

Use a humidifier. Having the heat on at home dries out your indoor air. A humidifier will add moisture back.

Stress outdoor protection. Protecting your skin from the elements is essential in winter weather:

  • Use moisturizing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on all exposed skin.
  • Dress in layers. This allows you to remove clothing when necessary so that you don't overheat and irritate your skin. Wear cotton or silk fabrics next to the skin under wool or other rough materials, which may be irritating.
  • Wear gloves. Hands may be affected by dryness more than any other body part, according to the AAD.

Love your skin

It doesn't take much to protect your skin. But chances are, you'll feel better if you do. So show your skin some love this winter.

reviewed 1/13/2019

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