The days are shorter, the air is drier, and you don’t need to look at a thermometer to know that the lazy, hazy days of summer are behind us now. Your lips and skin need a little more love this time of year, so you’ll need some tried-and-true winter skin care tips to answer the call.
If you learn how to treat dry skin, you can help your body’s largest organ stay smooth and supple when environmental conditions change, says Dr. Vlad Ratushny, MD, PhD, a Lahey Health dermatologist at Massachusetts Dermatology Associates in Beverly, Massachusetts.
“Winter is definitely a time for drier skin, and certain people with a predisposition for eczema are more susceptible to this dryness,” Dr. Ratushny said. “These people have a looser skin barrier that allows for transepidermal water loss and skin dehydration.”
Transepidermal water loss occurs when water leaves your body through the epidermis — the outermost layer of skin — via the process of evaporation. Wondering how to treat dry skin and counter the effects of transepidermal water loss? Try these winter skin care tips from Dr. Ratushny.
1. Stay cool.
Dr. Ratushny suggests protecting your skin by lowering the temperature of your shower.
“Avoid long, hot showers, because they can actually dry skin out even more,” he said. “Lukewarm water is a better choice.”
2. Be gentle.
Don’t use loofahs or washcloths to scrub and exfoliate your skin when you’re in the shower, Dr. Ratushny says. They strip your skin of its natural oils and allow water to escape — and a dry environment will dry out your raw skin. Dr. Ratushny also suggests skipping the harsh soaps and using a milder product on all the areas you need to wash.
And once you pop out of the shower, resist the urge to rub yourself dry.
“Instead of rubbing, pat skin dry with a towel,” Dr. Ratushny said. “Then, help strengthen that skin barrier by applying moisturizer to keep moisture from evaporating.”
Sure, you may have heard that you should exfoliate to get rid of that top layer of skin, but Dr. Ratushny doesn’t recommend it. He says exfoliation actually creates inflammation instead of healing your skin — resulting in a dry appearance.
3. Try a topical treatment.
Do all the dryness-treating options in the skin care aisle make your head spin? You’re not the only one. With so many choices available, it’s sometimes difficult to know which one to pick. Dr. Ratushny breaks your options down — and recommends products that won’t break the bank.
- Lotions: Lotions contain the most water and are therefore the least moisturizing. Dr. Ratushny likes CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion, a night cream with niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3. He also suggests Eucerin Advanced Repair Lotion and Intensive Repair Lotion and Cetaphil DailyAdvance Lotion.
- Creams: Creams are more concentrated, which means they have less water, than lotions. Dr. Ratushny is a fan of CeraVe Moisturizing Cream and perennial favorites Eucerin Relief Body Cream and Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream. For optimum sun protection, his choice is a sunscreen and moisturizer combo from EltaMD.
- Ointments: These products — often found in a jar, tub or tube — are thick and can sometimes feel greasier than lotions or creams. Dr. Ratushny’s favorites include Aquaphor and Vaniply. “Although they are greasy, ointments provide the most moisturizing effects, and so it’s a bit of a trade-off,” he said. For dry, cracked and bruised skin, he recommends Skintensive Fragile Skin Moisturizer — a product he’s proud to be a developer of — that is composed of the moisturizing, anti-oxidant, and bruise healing ingredients of organic coconut oil, vitamins A, C and E, and arnica.
4. Use retinoids with care.
Retinoids, including retinol and retinoic acid, are derivatives of vitamin A. Research has shown that retinoids can help prevent the appearance of wrinkles and plump up collagen and elastin in the skin. They’re also frequently used for acne.
But retinoids exfoliate your skin — that is, they remove dead cells from the top layer of your skin exposing new cells to the environment. So when the weather is drier, Dr. Ratushny suggests reducing the strength of the retinoid you’re using. Otherwise, you could be at risk for increased dryness and redness, as well as flaking or peeling.
“If you use Tazorac (tazarotene), you may want to discuss with your dermatologist whether it’s appropriate to use a milder retinoid, such as Retin-A (tretinoin) or Differin (adapalene),” Dr. Ratushny said.
5. Don’t overhydrate.
Staying hydrated is always a good idea, Dr. Ratushny says.
“But,” he cautions, “if you drink more water than the body needs, which is usually considered to be eight 8-ounce glasses, the kidneys will automatically filter out that excess water. The water you drink doesn’t translate to rehydrating the skin. That happens from the outside in — with moisturization and the care we’ve talked about — rather than from inside out.”
With this information, some planning and smart shopping, your skin can finally say goodbye to winter dryness. And for additional skin care tips, be sure to speak with your Lahey Health provider.