Caring for Dry Skin in the Winter

Winter's cold temperatures and brisk winds can dehydrate and crack the skin. Your face has it especially rough this time of year, since it's more likely to be exposed to winter weather. So how can you protect yourself?

Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist with Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, has some tips on how to properly protect the face from becoming dry and dull.

Green says that you don't need different moisturizers for different parts of the skin--contrary to what many people believe.

Basically, all moisturizers are the same, she says. However, manufacturers would like you to think there is a difference between a face moisturizer and a body moisturizer so you buy several moisturizers.

Is there a difference between the moisturizers sold in a drugstore and those sold in a department store? No, Green says. The formulations are basically the same--it's really a matter of how much money you want to spend for a moisturizer.

If you have sensitive skin--meaning if you have skin problems like adult acne or a reaction to certain skin products--then make sure you look for moisturizers that have been dermatologist tested and are hypoallergenic. But most people can use the same moisturizer.

Moisturizer is for men, too, Green says. In the last few years, more men are realizing that good skin is not just cosmetic, and they are using products to take care of their skin, she says.

Only moisturize the dry areas of the face to avoid breaking out in areas that are already oily. You can usually feel and see the dry areas on your face, she says, while it's usually shiny where it's oily.

Bye-Bye, Dry

The cheeks, ears, eye area and lips tend to all get dry in the wintertime, especially if they are exposed to the elements.

Along with dry skin, a lot of people get inflammation on their cheeks. To reduce inflammation, you might want to try this home remedy: Immerse a washcloth in whole milk at room temperature, wring it out and apply it to the face for about 15 minutes. Then, pat the face with a clean towel.

Green says you can also try an over-the-counter facial wash, which is easier on the skin than bar soaps. If you do use bar soap, look for opaque ones which are not as drying as clear soaps--and some even have moisturizers added.

The ears are the easiest feature on the face to take care of, and yet a lot of people don't, Green says. Wear a hat and keep your ears covered or wear earmuffs to protect your ears from the wind. Then, once you come in from the cold, remember to moisturize your ears.

Two things Green says you need to be aware of with your eyes are the lashes and lids. For lashes, use a "mascara base" to moisturize. Both men and women can use it since it's clear like petroleum jelly. For women, use the mascara base before putting on mascara. Also, for the eyelids and the are under your eyes--which is an incredibly sensitive area--use an eye cream to keep it from drying out.

This time of year, the cold weather can really do a number on your lips, Green says. Many people suffer from eczema--which is extreme dry skin--on the lips. The best treatments for this are balms and ointments, and usually Chapstick or Blistex will do.

However, make sure you get one that contains a sunscreen SPF of at least 15 to protect the lips from the sun's rays, Green says. But for severe cases of dry skin on the lips, you should see your dermatologist to get a prescription for a steroidal ointment to act as a moisturizer.

Aside from wearing hats when they go outdoors--which many people don't like to do--Green says she recommends that her patients use and over-the-counter dandruff shampoo to control the irritation and flaking of dry scalp. This usually works for most cases, but there are some people who have severe dry scalp. In that case, they should see a dermatologis for treatment, she says.

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