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Winter Skin Care Tips

During winter, cold temperatures, biting winds, low humidity and indoor heating can cause dry, itchy, cracked skin and chapped lips and exacerbate conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and seborrhea.

But there are some simple steps you can take to protect your skin from winter's harsh conditions, says dermatologist Dr. Deborah A. Scott, director of the Center for Laser Dermatology and Skin Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston.

Scott recommends that you:

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking adequate amounts of water benefits your overall health and helps hydrate your skin from within. You should try to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
  • Keep showers short and warm. Long, hot showers strip natural oils from your skin. You should spend no more than 10 minutes in the shower and keep the water temperature below 90 degrees F.
  • Use mild skin care products. The best choices are creams, ointments and lotions that are formulated for sensitive skin and don't contain alcohol. Do not use deodorant or antibacterial soaps, or soaps or shampoos with skin irritants such as fragrances and lauryl sulfates.
  • Moisturize daily. Immediately after a shower, pat skin dry (do not rub) and apply moisturizer to help trap moisture in the outer layers of your skin. Carry a travel-size container of lotion with you so you can replenish your skin moisture throughout the day.
  • Take care when exfoliating. While gentle exfoliation can help eliminate the buildup of dead skin cells, too much exfoliation can irritate skin and dry it out. Exfoliate once a week in moderation.
  • Consider using a humidifier in your home. Central heating systems can dry indoor air to as low as 10 percent humidity. To counter this, place a humidifier in the room in which you spend the most time and aim for moisture levels of 30 percent to 50 percent humidity.
  • Wear sunscreen. Apply SPF 15 in the winter and use a higher SPF sunscreen if you're vacationing on the slopes or at the beach.
  • Protect your lips. Lips can be especially prone to dryness because the skin there does not have oil glands. Do not lick your lips to hydrate them. Instead, use a petroleum- or beeswax-based lip balm.



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