Our skin may not see the light of day during the winter, but that doesn't mean we should neglect it. Maintaining smooth skin, even when it's hidden under layers, will guarantee it's healthy by the time spring rolls around. Here are a few tips on how to keep your skin supple.
1. Choose the right lotion
Any cream will moisturize your skin, but it's the ingredients and consistency that will determine exactly how well. For those with normal skin, a lighter lotion will do the trick. Those with dry to very dry skin should hold out for thicker creams. Most important, however, are the ingredients, which play the main role in staving off dryness. Lotions fall into three main categories:
Barrier creams These contain ingredients such as petroleum jelly/petrolatum, dimethicone, shea butter and silicone, which sit on the skin and act as a protective film, preventing moisture loss.
Humectants These add moisture and store it in the skin. Look for hyaluronic acid, glycerin, lanolin and urea as key ingredients. (Note: urea and lanolin may be irritating for sensitive skin.)
Emollients These make your skin soft and supple by filling in the spaces between skin cells. Ingredients include almond oil and isopropyl stearate.
Normal: Curel Natural Therapy Moisturizing Lotion (emollient and humectant) 380 mL/$12, Avon Skin So Soft Replenishing Body Lotion (barrier cream and humectant), 355 mL/$8.
Dry: Jergens Ultra Care Lotion (humectant), 325 mL/$4, St. Ives 24 Hour Moisture Body Lotion (barrier cream), 420 mL/$6.
Very Dry: got2b Butta Up Body Butter (barrier cream, humectant, emollient), 400 mL/$10, Eucerin 5% Urea Body Cream (humectant), 200 mL/$18.
2. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate
Dermatologists, estheticians – and beauty editors! – can't stress enough the importance of removing dry skin. Without this step, you're not getting rid of dryness, you're just cosmetically covering it up. As soon as your lotion wears off, those flaky rough patches will return. When you exfoliate, healthy looking soft skin emerges. Another bonus? Your skin will absorb body lotion better. Like moisturizers, there are two types of exfoliants.
Mechanical This includes loofahs and scrubs that contain micro particles or granules that physically dislodge dirt and dry skin when gently massaged onto the skin. For face: Olay Daily Facials Clarity Daily Scrub, 177 mL/$10. For body: Dermaglow Miracle Body Buff, 150 g/$25.
Chemical With these products, there's no scrubbing required. Instead, acids such as glycolic, alpha hydroxy, beta hydroxy and lactic, help to remove dead skin cells. Perfect for those who are prone to to acne and blocked pores. For face: MD Formulations Facial Cleanser, 250 mL/$41. For body: NeoStrata Body Lotion with 10% Glycolic Acid, 240 mL/$30.
3. Cover up
When skin is exposed to the elements, wind, cold and low humidity dramatically increase its dryness, leading to unsightly rough patches. Believe it or not, a super-warm scarf, gloves and even a hat for your hair will help prevent moisture loss. If the cold has already gotten to your delicate skin, slather on a rich moisturizer half an hour before you go to sleep. This will give the cream time to absorb and you won't slide off your bed! I'd recommend coating worse-for-wear hands and feet with a super-rich lotion and covering them with cotton gloves and socks.
4. Get specific
You wouldn't use an eye cream over your entire face – some are too heavy, plus it's not cost-effective (eye creams usually come in smaller amounts, but may cost as much as a bigger jar of face cream). That's why there are lotions on the market formulated for different parts of the body.
Hands and feet: You have thicker skin on your hands and feet, which means you'll need a richer cream for better absorption. This may make the product too thick for all-over-body moisturizing. Try: NeoStrata Deep Repair Foot Cream, 50 mL/$21, Sally Hansen Intensive Hand Repair Cream, 100 mL/$10.
Body: The skin on your body covers a larger area, which means you need a lot of lotion. This is why creams for our body usually cost less than a bottle of face cream. Also, some body lotions may include ingredients that could irritate the more sensitive skin on your face.
Face: Face lotions contain more complex – and expensive – ingredients (think retinol, pentapeptides and mushroom extract), which are meant to address delicate problems such as wrinkles, fine lines and brown spots, to name a few. This makes facial lotions too pricey to slather all over your body. Try: Dermalogica Super Rich Repair, 50 g/$100.
Is being this specific worth it? Well, I've tried using regular body lotion on my sandpapered heels and was left having to re-apply every half hour (they were still tight and itchy!). So although we may have to juggle a few bottles at once, if you do it right the first time, your dry skin will thank you.
5. Limit your time in the water
On chilly winter days, a hot bath or shower may seem like the perfect refuge. As much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news...prolonged exposure to water will break down your skin's lipids (the fatty acids that hold in your skin's natural moisture), resulting in dry, irritated skin. And hot water only accelerates this process! So try to cut down on shower time, either by showering every other day or keeping daily showers short. Limit any tub time to less than 15 minutes. (Tip: keep a handle on your precious moisture by smoothing on a body oil right after you rinse. Try Cake Desserted Island Moisturizing Body Glaze, 118 mL/$24.)