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Is Your Skin Ready for Winter Weather?

Cold weather can wreak havoc on your skin leaving it dry, itchy and blotchy. But that doesn't have to be your plight this winter.

On "The Early Show" CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton offered some tips on how you can keep your skin healthy, smooth and supple all through the winter months.

Special Section: Dr. Jennifer Ashton
Video Series: Dr. Ashton's Health and Wellness


Hook Up the Humidifier
Cold can be your skin's enemy, but so can heat. Now that the temperatures are dropping, we turn up the heat in our homes, which can be very drying to the skin. Hook up a humidifier to get more moisture in the air. Not only will your skin feel better, but your nose and throat will thank you, as well.

Apply Lip Balm Often
Also, don't forget your lips. Often they are like the canary in the coal mine--lips are the first body part to become chapped. Apply lip balm or even lipstick often. Dermatologists recommend using a lip balm with an SPF of at least 30. This will reduce signs of premature aging and can even prevent long term problems like skin cancer on your lips.


Short Showers or Baths with Warm Water
It's important to keep the skin clean, but remember, water can be drying. Take short showers or baths, five to 10 minutes max. Also, do not use hot water, warm water is best. Hot water strips the body of its natural oils. The more oil removed, the drier the skin. And use a mild cleanser. Products containing alcohol can also dry out the skin. When you're out of the shower, blot your skin, don't rub it down with the towel so you don't irritate and dry out your skin.


Apply Moisturizer within Three Minutes Post-Shower
A big key is MOISTURIZING. A myth is that moisturizer adds moisture the skin -- it actually traps in it. So, what you want to do is lock in the water from your shower or bath. Apply moisturizer within three minutes after your bath or shower. This can help decrease itchiness or dryness. Creams and ointments may be more effective than lotion. Look for moisturizers with glycerin, oil or petroleum jelly.

Use SPF 30 to Minimize Burn from Winter Glare
Another way you can protect the skin is to apply sunscreen to keep it from burning. Because of the cold temperatures, people don't think they can get sunburned -- but, actually the sun reflects off snow stronger than water. Dermatologists recommend using SPF of at least 30 on or off the ski slopes.

You also want to dress in layers -- itchy skin is triggered by sweat and overheating. You'll be able to shed your clothes and prevent overheating if you choose loose-fitting layers.

Hands really can get the brunt of winter's fury because the skin on your hands is thinner and they don't produce as much oil. Don't leave home without your gloves. Choose waterproof gloves, and stay away from wool because it can irritate your skin. Or, if you need extra warmth, wear cotton gloves and layer wool gloves on top. Because it's cold and flu season, we tend to wash our hands more frequently -- so try to use hand cream or a glycerin-based moisturizer to lock in the moisture.

Just as with your hands, your feet can really take a beating from cracked skin. You might not normally do this, but moisturize your feet -- before you go to bed, slather on some petroleum jelly and put on a pair of socks.
It may sound like common sense -- but, change out of wet socks or shoes immediately. Be on alert for frostbite. When the skin gets hard, pale, cold from extreme temperatures, it can cause lasting damage.

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