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Stories Katherine Rothman
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When winter rolls around and the temperature drops, everyone winterizes their wardrobes, homes, and even their makeup. But people often neglect their most important shield from the icy months of winter: their skin.

Skin is the body’s natural barrier from harmful agents in the air, and it should be treated with the care it deserves. The combination of exposure to cold, windy air outdoors and the dry heat indoors can leave skin looking
scaly and blotchy. Flaky, dry, irritated skin doesn’t have to be the norm every winter.

We enlisted the expertise of Dr. Manish H. Shah, a board-certified plastic surgeon with a private practice near Cherry Creek. Follow the doc-approved SOS game plan and bypass the chapped, scaly misery of the season with these smart, easy skin-care switch ups. Small tweaks to your daily skin-care routine will work wonders to repair any damage winter has already ravaged and get you prepped to, ahem, face the rest of the harshest season.

Prep Your Home:

The drier the air, the drier the skin. To maximize the amount of water in the air, Shah recommends placing a humidifier in the room where you spend the most time, which, in many cases, is the bedroom. “A cool air humidifier increases the moisture level in the air,” Shah says, helping the skin’s barrier stay hydrated. In addition, be sure the heat is kept on low or at a moderate temperature to avoid extra dryness.

Wash Your Face with Lukewarm

Water: Cold winter nights can make a hot bubble bath sound appealing, but you should avoid soaking very long in water that’s toasty and steaming. Water can strip the skin of its natural oils. The hotter the bath, the more the skin loses moisture, leaving it flaky and easily cracked. “Use lukewarm or cool water when washing your face and showering, and avoid extreme hot or cold,” Shah suggests. “Also, keep showers at a maximum of 10 minutes, and then pat yourself dry with a towel rather than rubbing, as it will leave some water on your skin for added hydration.”

Switch Your Moisturizer:

One of the most important and commonly overlooked steps is changing to a seriously hydrating moisturizer. “Look for creams, rather than lotions, that are made with ceramides and hyaluronic acid,” Shah says. Ceramides aid in the prevention of the skin’s barrier, which is “easily broken down during the winter.” For patients with severely chapped faces, slather on a generous amount of product, morning and night.

Exfoliate Once a Week:

It’s nearly impossible to look flawless in the winter without exfoliating. Slathering on extra moisturizer will work effectively only if you get rid of the dead cells on the dermis, or top layer of your skin. Otherwise the cream will not penetrate the skin for maximum hydration. “Because the winter cold leaves skin dryer than usual, the flaky build-up on the surface of the skin causes skin to appear dull,” Shah says. Exfoliating with a nonabrasive product once or twice a week will allow moisture to penetrate the skin more easily, yielding more supple and radiant skin.

Change Your Face Wash:

The change to drier, colder air calls for milder skin products. In the winter, your skin craves more nourishment when it’s cold out, so skip products with alcohol or antibacterial soaps, as they tend to strip moisture from the skin. Instead, opt for milder, soap-free products. Shah recommends changing from gel and foam cleansers to a richer milk cleanser and from a light summery moisturizer to a thicker nourishing cream.

Sleep Easy:

If you’ve been losing sleep lately, your skin will surely show it. Getting plenty of restful sleep can benefit your skin far more than a slew of expensive products. Skimping on sleep can leave your usually rosy skin looking dull and sallow, not to mention the dark circles that will develop under your eyes. To keep your skin looking radiant, Shah recommends getting at least eight hours of sleep a night.

Keep Using Sunscreen:

One of the greatest misconceptions about winter is that the sun isn’t as strong in winter, and thus it won’t damage your skin. “The sun may not feel as strong in the winter because the air is cold, but the harmful UVA rays are still in full effect,” Shah says. UVA light is the main culprit responsible for long-term skin damage and premature aging of the skin. Make sure the sunscreen you’re using protects against UVA rays, especially if you ski, snowboard, or engage in other outdoor activities for extended periods of time.

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