Hey, chill — you can fix winter skin

Hey, chill — you can fix winter skin

It’s the daily routine of winter: Scurrying from the dry heat of home to a heat-blasted car to a circulated-air office and back again – and in between enduring shocks of bitter cold.

No doubt, this repeated cycle can quickly lead to painfully dry hands and cracked knuckles, as well as un-stylishly frizzy, flat or even crusty hair.

Still, you don’t have to suffer for the next four months.

When it comes to your skin, there are three major tenets in the winter, according to Dr. Kathy Bush.

“Moisturize and make it a habit. Don’t use too much soap. And don’t forget your sunblock,” said Bush, a dermatologist working in private practice in South Portland.

For hair, meanwhile, moisture is just as imperative. Thus, don’t go out with wet locks, dry on a medium setting, and use a shampoo or conditioner with reconstructive hydrolyzed proteins, according to Jennifer Leigh, owner of 02 Salon and Spa in Portland.

In both cases, it should all start in the morning shower.

With hair, Leigh urged, use products – whether shampoos, conditioners or serums – with hydrolyzed proteins, typically keratin, which penetrate hair strands and strengthen it. A couple brands she suggests: Sojourn or Biomega.

“It rebuilds the hair while you’re shampooing or conditioning it,” she explained, also suggesting regular deep conditioning treatments.

As for skin, stick to mild, non-fragrant soaps and body washes including Dove, Olay or Caress, Bush said, and be conservative. Tempting as it might be, “don’t suds up everywhere, because that can tend to really dry the skin,” said Bush. Instead, focus on areas such as the face, hands, armpits and groin.

Likewise, much as you might look forward to a nice, hot, steamy shower when your toes curl up in the morning chill, try to get in the habit of using just lukewarm water.

Shy away from heat when it comes to your hair, as well. With hairdryers or a flat iron, use a medium setting, Leigh advised, instead of cranking it all the way up.

Meanwhile, as soon as you’re out of the shower, pat dry and moisturize within 3 minutes. As Bush suggested, use a non-fragrant, cream-based moisturizer, rather than a lotion – the easiest way to differentiate the two is to seek out something in a tube, rather than a pump-bottle. Some of her suggestions include Cetaphil, Aveeno and CeraVe. Likewise, there are many over-the-counter creams with naturally occurring lipids.

Skin also benefits from occasional exfoliation, Bush said – either with physical exfoliators like loofahs or chemical exfoliators encompassing retinoids or glycolic, alpha hydroxy or lactic acids.

After that’s done, and you’re on to the hair, oil products are a common recommendation.

They “smooth down the hair, weigh down the frizziness,” said Leigh, noting, however, that they’re more of a cosmetic solution, as they “don’t actually structurally change it.”

Meanwhile, while blow drying, go down the length of the hair, rather than up toward the head, she said, as that’ll also help smooth it out.

As for those dry, cracked hands? Because of circulating germs, it’s essential to wash them frequently in the winter, Bush acknowledged – but at the same time, train yourself to moisturize right after, making sure to rub cream right down into the cuticles.

“It’s good to have creams spread all around the house, at all the sinks,” said Bush.

To treat particularly parched hands at night, meanwhile, grease up with Vaseline or Aquaphor ointment and slip on a pair of white cotton gloves.

As for prevention, while outside, always wear gloves – and although wool tends to be warmest, it can often chafe already irritated skin, so Bush suggested putting a pair of thin cotton gloves on beneath.

Leigh also had cautions about wool, calling wool hats “a nice extra buffer against the cold,” but also removing moisture from hair.

So once you get back inside, pull off the hat – and likely suffer from static shoots or flat locks – dampen your hands and squish some water into your hair, she advised. Also, she said, never go out with it still wet from the shower. “It’s actually worse than using a blow dryer,” she said.

As for other issues that come up, “always bring up concerns to your hairdresser,” she said.

Getting back to the skin, dress in layers to prevent triggering the itch-scratch cycle, and, if any part of your clothing gets wet while you’re outside, change immediately.

And there’s one thing to never forget: Sunscreen.

Although the sun’s rays are noticeably less intense in the winter, snow and ice can reflect up to 80 percent of them up and sideways, ultimately increasing exposure, Bush said. Also, ultraviolet light can penetrate window glass.

So every day, Bush advised, “wear sunblock so it’s a habit, like brushing your teeth.”

In particular, spread it over your face, neck, ears, and the back of your hands, she said. And don’t just rely on a moisturizer with a built-in sunscreen, as those usually don’t offer enough UV protection. Instead, consistently use a sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or above, she urged, and one that also has both UVA and UVB protection.

In the winter, there’s “less sunlight, and less intensity,” Bush said, “but you can still get plenty of solar damage.”

Taryn Plumb is a ?Maine-based freelance writer who has written for a variety of publications, including daily and weekly newspapers, websites, trade and business journals, wedding, art and regional-themed magazines.

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