As the temperature drops here at Amherst, many more of us become accustomed to just rolling out of bed in the morning, throwing on a sweater and jeans and running to class. It’s convenient, quick and comfortable in the freezing weather. Not to mention it’s hard to feel good about yourself with a runny nose, dry skin and bags under your eyes. While waking up (and getting enough sleep) is going to remain as hard as ever in the stretch before another break begins, there are remedies for the parched, cracking skin some of us face when winter approaches.
Living in the Northeast means a cold, dry winter with the thermostat cranked up high, which most severely dehydrates your skin. With the low humidity, some people start getting a tight, dry feeling in their face, hands and legs as the skin in those areas gets uncomfortably dry. The itchiness and cracking makes a cold winter even more uncomfortable. For those of us braving these issues, however, a few additions to your daily habits (and a little advice on what to avoid) can make life a lot easier.
A good start is just to begin applying moisturizer more often throughout the day. The change in weather means a change in skin care routine is also needed. An oil-based moisturizer works well this time of year because of the way the oil forms a protective layer over the skin, retaining more moisture than ordinary cream or lotion. Of course, for the face, not all oils will work out, so try to look for oils considered “nonclogging,” like avocado oil or mineral oil to avoid clogged pores.
If you prefer your typical face cream, try to add something like a moisturizing serum to your routine. They’re lightweight, but they are still able to penetrate deeply into the skin, so applying a serum before your usual facial cream can really make a difference.
Use Water Wisely
We’re often told that water helps your skin look better, and that hydrating your skin is important. While it is true that drinking water is good and will benefit the skin of a person severely dehydrated, drinking 14 glasses of water a day actually won’t make much of difference. Staying hydrated and remembering to drink water remains important for several other reasons, but water alone won’t help the skin at all.
In fact, just water (especially hot and soapy water) can make dry skin even worse because of how water will strip your skin of its normal, protective skin oils. Washing your hands often, even if it gives you a temporary relief, will just result in more cracked skin. Water right after applying oil such as moisturizer, however, will actually help your skin because of how the moisturizer helps trap and seal water, making the skin softer and smoother.
Don’t Stop the Sunscreen
Though we tend to forget this as summer ends, sunscreen isn’t just for the season full of beaches and heat. Winter sun, especially combined with snow glare as soon as snow begins to settle, can still be bad. If you’re going to be outside for a while, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to your face and hands 30 minutes before you head out and reapply it if you stay out longer.
Humidifier — Let’s Talk About Home-made Ones
The hot, dry air from indoor heating really dries out your skin, but not having the thermostat on can mean a freezing room as the weather turns frigid. One way to stay warm without getting too dry is to use a humidifier. If buying one isn’t a viable option, there are plenty of easy ways to make a humidifier.
A sponge humidifier, for example, can work in smaller areas. To make one, wet a large sponge until it is saturated with water and squeeze any excess water out. Place it into a hole-punched food-storage bag and leave it in the room. Increase or decrease the humidity by changing the number of sponges.
To raise the humidity quickly, boiling water works well. If you happen to have a water boiler, just put some water in, wait until it starts boiling, and leave it out to allow the steam to form. Place it on your table or dresser to quickly humidify your room.
With skin that is already itchy and dry, additional irritation doesn’t help. Because the skin on your hands is thinner than on other parts of the body, it’s harder to keep your hands moist in the dry weather. Wearing gloves when going outside is helpful, and to avoid the irritation of thicker wool gloves, simply moisturize your hands and slip on a thin cotton glove first.
Wet gloves and socks can also irritate your skin, so try to change out of them as soon as you return inside to prevent further itching and cracking.
Avoid Extremely Hot Water
While relaxing in a steaming hot shower may feel amazing at first, if you have already sensitive and dry skin, it will only exacerbate the situation. Intense heat can break down the lipid barriers in the skin so you lose moisture, which is why a warm-water shower works best. Using a moisturizing body wash to lock moisture into your skin is also helpful, versus a harsher soap. Remember to apply a cream or lotion after toweling off to keep moisturized.
Winter can be harsh. We start getting used to waking up in the morning and feeling dried up and sick. It’s difficult to look good without feeling the same, so these simple tips become important this season.