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Winter skin care 101

January 12, 2018 GMT

Dry, flaky skin can be itchy and irritating. Even individuals who tend toward oily skin on their face often battle dry skin on their body in the winter months. A big factor in winter dryness is lower levels of humidity in the environment, says Dr. Suzan Obagi, associate professor of dermatology and associate professor of cosmetic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“When it’s drier out, our skin loses more water,” Obagi says.

In fact, she says, individuals are prone to lose more water, and are at high risk of dehydration in the winter, which means everyone should be drinking more water and taking better care of their skin when the temperatures are colder.

Combat Dry Skin

There are several things that can be done to combat dry skin. First, avoid taking long, hot showers in the winter. While contrary to our desire to stay warm, Obagi says hot showers strip the skin of natural oil and dry it out. She recommends taking a shorter shower using warm water, rather than hot.


Next, she recommends using soap sparingly, as it can sometimes dry skin, as well. Try lathering up only those areas that tend to become dirty, such as under the arms and the groin. All other areas should be cleansed with a moisturizing cleanser, which has oil or fat as an ingredient. She offers caution to those using an oil-based cleanser, such as coconut oil or shea butter. These products can create slippery conditions in the shower.

Obagi recommends to those with very dry skin to consider using a hydrating ointment on the body. Creams and lotions are better suited for those with moderate to mild dry skin. For those who don’t like the tacky feeling of an ointment right before they get dressed for work, Obagi says a lotion can be used during the day and an ointment applied in the evening, paired with a loose-fitting pair of pajamas.

F.a.c.e. Makeup artist Erin Hendley also has a few recommendations for those seeking solutions to moisturize skin on their faces.

“Serums are typically lightweight and great for oily and normal skin,” Hendley says. “Toner sprays are also fabulous for oily skin, since they help balance out the Ph levels of the skin. Moisturizer lotions are usually thicker, so they are suggested for dry skin.

“For combination skin, ‘spot treating’ is a go-to, essentially, applying moisturizer lotions along the dry areas and applying a serum along the more oily to normal areas.”

Drink More Water

While nothing sounds more appetizing than a hot cup of coffee on a winter morning or a brandy to keep warm at night, coffee and alcohol can accelerate dehydration. This leads to drier skin.

“Drink lots of water in the winter,” Obagi says. “In the winter, we have to hydrate more because we lose more water.”

Hendley says hydrating from within is the surest way to keep skin moisturized all year long. She also recommends a spritzer applied directly to the skin to keep skin fresh.


“I love a mineralized water spritzed on to wake up the skin,” Hendley says. “I use it before applying makeup and at the end, too.”

Use a Humidifier

Another dry skin culprit is the dry heat emitted from your home’s heating system. Humidifying products can be installed to many HVAC systems; however, even a basic, stand-alone humidifier placed in a bedroom can do a lot to add moisture back into the environment, Obagi says.

The best time to combat winter skin dryness is before it becomes an issue.

“Don’t wait until your skin is dry and irritated.” Obagi says. “You can take preventative measures early on.”