We’ve all been through those winter days when the skin on your nose is flaking. Your lips are rock hard if not bleeding. Your cheeks are lit up like a Christmas tree. The whole package vaguely stings and all this not only happens to females only, but males are also trapped. On the list of universal cold-weather miseries, winter skin ranks somewhere up there with drippy head colds and scraping ice off your windshield in freezing temperatures.
Even if you’ve found a harmonious skin care regimen—and even if that regimen is minimalist and easy to maintain—you will periodically find yourself with patches of dry, itchy skin. The cold, dry air in winter is almost certainly to blame. But dry skin can also occur in summer, particularly in less humid climates or when your air conditioning is cranked super high.
The good news is that for most guys, all the winter-related problems are absolutely avoidable. You just have to know what your skin needs this time of year.
So, run down this list and consider all the ways you can both prevent dry, itchy skin and quickly repair any current cases. Pair these fixes with a proper winter skincare regimen in the colder months, and you’ll likely avoid any problems in the future.
- Keep Your Skin Covered
Winter skin dryness has two main sources–cold and dryness. If you can minimize exposure to cold air and winter winds, you can prevent them from stripping away your skin’s natural oils. Always wear gloves and cover your mouth and nose with a scarf or the collar of your jacket, especially if it’s windy. The less direct contact between the cold air and your skin (especially your lips), the better.
- Moisturize…Then Moisturize Some More
It’s common knowledge that moisturizing should be part of your grooming routine to prevent skin roughness and aging, but winter is the time to step up your game. Look for a thicker, richer product and keep an eye out for certain key ingredients that fight winter chapping and flaking as well as the aging effects of dryness:
- Emollients – to stop the skin from losing its moisture. These include plant oils, mineral oils, shea butter, cocoa butter, petrolatum, silicones and animal oils (like lanolin). Avoid petroleum, which can prevent skin from breathing and lead to dehydration, inflammation, and breakouts. Plant oils are best–they penetrate the skin quickly and deeply for long-lasting hydration and have antioxidants and vitamins to nourish and protect skin from winter weather.
- Humectants – to attract additional external water to the skin. They include sorbitol, glycols, glycerin, sodium PCA and hyaluronic acid.
- Antioxidants – to fight free radicals, which are unstable molecules in the body that cause cell damage. Antioxidants include tocopherol (vitamin E), lycopene (a carotenoid found in red produce), green tea, coffeeberry, resveratrol (from grapes), grape seed, genistein (from soy), niacinamide (vitamin B3), and l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
- SPF – the sun still ages your skin even in the winter.
- Remedy Chapped Lips
You can dodge the nagging discomfort of chapped lips entirely–even in winter–with a little proactive care. The main cause of chapped lips is dry air whipping past them, carrying away all the moisture that should be there naturally. A coat of vaseline each time you leave the house will prevent the wind from having this effect. And if you tend to sleep with your mouth open because of winter congestion, a coat before bed is a requirement too.
If your lips do get chapped, the key is to take care of them consistently, hydrate, and protect that moisture-trapping layer. Carry your lip balm everywhere (look for one with emollients like beeswax). Make a habit of putting it on by pairing it with something else you do frequently, like washing your hands.
- Shave Less or Shave Better
Shaving can wreak havoc on winter-dry skin.
The secret to coming out of a wintertime shave with your outer layer of skin intact? The right products plus the right technique. The winter months are not the time for disposable razors. Get a quality safety razor or learn to use a straight razor. The reason for this is simple–you want a blade you don’t have to make three or four passes with. With a closer and faster shave, your skin suffers less. Use a moisturizing soap or shaving cream high in the ingredients discussed above (you want one that gives a rich, slippery lather). Make sure your aftershave isn’t alcohol-based (which can be very drying) and consider swapping it out completely for a deep-hydrating cream.
Moisturizing should be your last step after shaving. Your soap or shaving cream and razor will open your pores and wear down the outer layer of your skin. Anything you put on your face during this crucial time will be fully absorbed by your skin–make sure it’s nourishing, not depleting.
- Dress For Skincare Success
For many, the biggest winter skincare struggle is sensitivity. With the outer layer of the skin becoming dry and brittle, irritation and redness are often par for the course.
As a rule, shirts and sweaters with a tighter weave will be softer and cause less irritation to the skin. Soft natural fibers like cotton and synthetic weaves like polyester that feel smooth to the touch are the best choices for shirts and other items that directly contact skin.
Particularly look out for shirts that are textured at the collar and cuffs, as these are areas most prone to flaky skin.
Other Tips for Preventing Dry Skin
- Do not use cleansing toners, colognes, body mists and splashes, aftershaves, or similar products that contain alcohol. Alcohol dries out the skin.
- Avoid coarse, scratchy, or rough fabrics, such as wool, which can make skin feel itchy. Choose softer fabrics, like 100% cotton or silk. Keep this in mind when choosing bedding as well.
- Dry air and low-humidity can pull water from your skin. Running a humidifier in your home, particularly when you have the heat on, can restore moisture to the air. Aim for a humidity level of about 45% to 55%.
Experimenting with these tips can help you discover the main sources of winter skin trouble for you, whether it’s cold, indoor dry heat, dehydration, or all of the above. No matter what the underlying cause, your skin will benefit from regular moisturizing and exfoliation–so if you’ve been looking for a reason to step up your routine, this season is it.
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