Ask Dr. Pat · Fashion & Beauty

Dry Skin Care in the Winter Months

Many women, even those without particularly sensitive skin, need to change their regimens in the colder months.

  1.  Stop everything. First, let me say that many dermatologists love retinoids, but they do  know that there are times to call it quits.  For some women, it may mean decreasing the strength of the retinoid during the dry winters, and for others it may simply mean to use extra moisturizer, but there is a group that simply can’t tolerate prescription topical retinoids, or even over-the-counter retinols. You may be able to return to your Retin-A eventually, but first we need to repair your irritated skin. Stopping everything also means stopping vitamin C serums, glycolic acid products, “anti-aging” moisturizers, and traditional soap cleansers that can irritate sensitive skin.
  2.  Start over. Put aside all the moisturizers that are not helping — but don’t worry, you will likely be able to use them again once the weather improves. For both dry facial skin and all-over dry skin, avoid the temptation to take long, hot baths or showers to combat the cold weather. This actually just dries the skin further.
  3. Consider cleansers. Read the labels to find out what ingredients are present. You probably already know that traditional soap cleansers with sodium lauryl sulfate should not be used on the face if you have sensitive skin. Many people find that even water can be irritating if their skin is dry and cracked.  In fact, washing your face with water only makes matters worse, because as the water evaporates it can leave your skin tight and dry.  Some dermatologists recommend non-foaming, creamy cleansers like Cetaphil. One trick is to use Cetaphil gentle cleanser without any water at all.  It is applied to the face and then gently wiped off with a cotton ball. A thin layer is left in place; this actually helps to protect the skin. Similarly, Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser, an old classic, works the same way. It does not need to be washed off.  This extra layer of protection without rinsing can be very soothing.
  4. Use moisturizers. In the morning, pat your skin dry with a cotton towel after your shower and immediately apply a very bland, fragrance-free moisturizer. A few brands recommended  for this are Vanicream, CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, Pond’s Dry Skin Cream, and Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream. They are all a little on the thicker side, but as your skin improves you can switch to a lighter lotion. I currently use Dr. Hauschka Rose Day Cream for day and night. These thicker creams will help your skin to retain moisture.  On your lips, a thin layer of Vaseline is best. Vaseline is also terrific for around the eyes at night for some women.  The same cleansing technique followed by a moisturizer can be repeated at night.
  5. Use sunscreen. In the daytime, never forget to use a sunscreen. UV radiation damage to the skin continues even when the days are gray and cold.
  6. Add protection. Simple measures like protecting your skin from harsh winds and freezing temperatures are also useful. Wrapping up in a soft scarf is a must, but be careful of harsh fabrics. A silk scarf or soft pashmina are better tolerated than traditional wool scarves.

Cold weather and harsh winds are headed our way across the northern part of the United States.  If you make these changes in your skin care regimen now, I hope that your complexion will be much improved this winter. Do remember to consult a dermatologist if these suggestions do not improve the health of your complexion.

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  • Abigail congdon October 25, 2016 at 8:43 am

    As someone with similar skin, but not as extremely sensitive and dry, may I also suggest being sure to get plenty of good fats in your diet. Daily helpings of olive oil, avocados,nuts, good dairy, high- omega fish like salmon, sardines etc has helped my skin immensely. Good fats are our friends! Moisturize and desensitize your skin from within! I also avoid all fragranced products on my skin as they are very irritating.

  • Fiona October 24, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks for this. Another helpful tip from my dentist. If you are using whitening or brightening toothpaste, be careful to not let the toothpaste coat the skin around your mouth and chin. The elements in the toothpaste may be drying or harmful to the skin.

  • Patricia October 24, 2016 at 8:38 am

    Glad you found this post useful.
    Dr Pat

  • Patti M October 24, 2016 at 8:06 am

    I also recommend seeing a good esthetician to evaluate your skin type and suggest a daily regimen.

  • Helen Graber October 24, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Thank you Dr Allen for these helpful tips! Just what we need to get ready for the cold winter weather.