Winter-Ready Skin

Cold weather's coming whether you're ready or not. We asked a dermatologist for winter skin-care tips, and the products he recommends most to patients

Photograph by Christopher Robbins

Fall and winter are right around the corner, and it’s not just your wardrobe that needs a change. The bitter cold can give your skin a serious beating, so before you pick up your pumpkins and start that Christmas list, here are a few tips to update and improve your skin-care regimen. (And FYI, excessive amounts of Halloween candy won’t help.)

Steven Greenbaum, a Jefferson Hospital dermatologist and director of Center City’s Skin and Laser Surgery Center of Pennsylvania, says that as it gets colder outside, our skin’s moisture gets pulled out, often times leaving it dry.

So to keep your skin soft to the touch, stay hydrated from both the inside and outside: Drink plenty of fluids and find a good moisturizer. Since skin is less oily in the winter time, you’re better off picking products that are less harsh in order to maintain some moisture. Greenbaum recommends Lubriderm, Cetaphil and Aveeno—all brands that won’t break the bank.

“You don’t have to spend a bundle to keep your skin looking good,” he says.

If you’re looking to spend zero pennies, try this: Keep the water temp in your shower cooler. Hot baths can affect the outermost layers of your skin, breaking down the lipid barriers and leaving you sapped of moisture.

Greenbaum also suggests using less harsh soaps during fall and winter because they can deplete your skin of natural oils. He likes the Dove and Cetaphil brands. Ivory Soap can work as well for those of us with naturally oily skin. But keep in mind, scent isn’t everything. “The soaps that typically smell really good are often too strong,” he says.

For the face, Greenbaum suggests Aveeno or Neutrogena washes as well as botanical masks, which are chock-full of antioxidants. As for exfoliating—another moisture thief—you want to do it less regularly than you would in the summer.

And what about those luscious locks that turn so desperately dry in the winter? Condition twice as much and check out Head & Shoulders 2-in-1 Dry Scalp Care; Greenbaum says it’s a favorite among his patients.

If you have the curse of persistently chapped lips, stay away from products with a laundry list of ingredients—the less preservatives, the better. And even more importantly, minimize licking your lips. It might give temporary relief from dryness, but the moisture actually rubs away natural oils.

So what about that humidifier you’ve had hiding in the closet since March? Greenbaum says to use with caution.

“They’re a double-edged sword,” he says. Though delightful for the skin and nasal passages, this addicting appliance is a breading ground for mold, fungus and bacteria if not cleaned regularly. So before splurging, remember the importance of maintenance.