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Come winter, many of us are faced with the cold harsh reality of chapped lips, stretchedface, itchy legs, and coarse knuckles to name a few.These are nothing but our body’s response to the drop in temperature and humidity.The body in an effort to hold in heat constricts blood vessels due to which blood supply to the skin, sweat glands, and oil glands is decreased. This leads to the tightening of pores and reduced production of the natural oily substance – sebum.  As a result, the skin becomes dry,dull, flaky, itchy, and cracked.

So how do we attain a happy skin to wade through the nip? For starters, winter skincare is much more than just moisturizers.

Hot feels Good, but Warm is Better!

A freezing day can tempt you to get into a hot shower. However, hot water and long showers do more harm than good to your skin, as do saunas, hot tubs, and Jacuzzis because they wash away the natural oils of your skin, leaving it irritated, rough, and dry.  Try and limit bath time to once a day, for less than 10 minutes, with warm rather than hot water.

Soap?Less is More!

It is wise to minimize the use of soaps during the cold season.  Just go gentle all around and choose moisturizing preparations or soap-free cleansers.Face washes with formulated chamomile or oatmeal are more suitable for winter than those with drying ingredients such as fragrances or additives.Harsh soaps such as deodorant soaps, perfumed soaps, and alcohol products purge the natural oils in your skin.Gentle or hypoallergenic products minimize skin irritation thus helping maintain the skin barrier needed to prevent water loss.

Getting Over That Rough Patch

In frigid weather, skin cells dehydrate more quickly leaving you with flaky lacklustre skin that has lost its elasticity and suppleness. Fine lines and pigmentation become more visible. 

Integratinggentle exfoliation into your skincare regime will remove dry skin patches, clear away grime, and restore fresh skin cells without disturbing the skin’s natural oil content.  This could be achieved with exfoliants such as facial scrubs, bath sponges, brushes, or washcloths.

Any amount of moisturizing serum or cream applied to dry skin will not benefit it without some mild exfoliation.

You could swap a gentle facial scrub formula with your regular soap twice a week.

Using a mild glycolic or lactic acid facial scrub will do the job.For raw or severely dry skin, opt for a wet washcloth instead of an exfoliator brush.

Any Time is Screen Time

Don’t let the fewer sunny days of winter fool you into skipping sunscreen.  Sun protection is for every day, round the year. So, apply as much sunscreen on frosty days as you would on sunny days because less sun doesn’t mean you are not exposed to ultraviolet rays. Exposure to UV light even atlow levels adds up over a lifetime causing photodamage.

Broad spectrum sunscreens with at least SPF 30 could do the job.  Hyaluronic acid or vitamin E sunscreen formulas would work well to beat the UV rays and dry skin too.  There are zincbased sunscreens containing photolyase (a skin repairing enzyme),which both protect and healthy our skin from sun damage.

Kiss Those Chaps Goodbye!

One of the first indicators that dipping temperature is robbing moisture from your body is dry lips.  Your lips might get wind burned when exposed to the cold and might start to chap and bleed.  Overheating in homes could also play a role.

There are myriad options for lip balms at drugstores and supermarkets to protect your lips.  Hydrating lip balms that contain oil from sources such as wheat germ, almond, jojoba, coconut, sunflower, cottonseed, or calendula will do the trick.  Aloe vera or shea butter lip balms are also excellent choices.  If the chapping is severe, you may turn to over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointment.

Rule of thumb:  Always carry lip balm!

Just Dew It!

Rehydrating the skin with a moisturizer is of prime importance in winter skin care.  A good moisturizer puts brake son water loss and also mends rough skin to make it smooth.  It is like a barrier against dry air.

There is no dearth of options to choose from as far as moisturizers are concerned.  Broadly classified,they may be water based or oil based and sold as creams or lotions.  Go for creams or ointments rather than lotions during winter.  Bath oils and moisturizing body wash are also alternatives.Keep in mind that highly priced mositurizers do not necessarily perform better.

There are formulations with ceramides, sorbitol, hyaluronic acid, linolenic, or lauric acids to choose from.  Moisturizers with fruit acids such as lactic acid,glycolic acid, malic acid, or citric acid hold moisture in the skin for longer durations. Natural oils like shea butter, olive oil, or jojoba oil work really well.  Petroleum jelly and moisturizing oils such as mineral oil are inexpensive and excellent options.

The best time to moisturize is right after a shower or after washing your hands or face.  Once you have gently patted your skin dry,slather a good moisturizer onto the still damp skin.

Pro Tip:Moisturize as and when you remember.

By taking your regular skin care routine a notch up with these suggestions, your winter experience will be a cool breeze!

Dr. Arfa Siddiqi., BDS