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Avoid These Common Skin Care Mistakes This Winter

Healthy skin not only feels more comfortable, but it also protects you from getting sick.

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If you have the same skin care routine year-round, we hate to have to tell you that you are doing it wrong—but, you kind of are. Winter conditions (especially if you live somewhere with low humidity or rely heavily on indoor heating) tend to dry out our skin much more than other times of the year.

Prioritizing winter skin care can ultimately help keep the rest of your body healthy. That’s because dry, cracked skin makes it easier for bacteria and germs to get into your system. So keeping yourself moisturized (especially your hands) is just one more step you can take to stay safe from colds, the flu, or COVID-19.

Give dry skin and lackluster locks the cold shoulder by revamping your regimen this year. Nix these no-nos and you’ll get healthy skin and hair in return. 

8 Skin Care Mistakes to Avoid This Winter

1. Running in the wrong gear.  

Exposing your skin to the elements while you’re out running can definitely dry you out. You may notice dry skin first on your hands, which is an indicator that you should be wearing gloves on your run. Try to cover up your skin as much as possible without overheating yourself.

2. Taking a long, hot shower.

We know it feels amazing and toasty, but your hair and skin will thank you when you stop taking those long, luxurious showers.

“I know it’s cold, and a nice, hot steamy shower seems like the perfect remedy; however super-hot water can be damaging to the skin,” says aesthetician Jennifer Gerace. “Hot showers and baths can inflame the skin, causing redness, itching, and even peeling—and can disrupt the skin’s natural balance of moisture, robbing you of the natural oils, fats, and proteins that keep skin healthy.” If possible, try to limit your shower to no more than 10 minutes.

Some other shower tips: Close the bathroom door to trap in the humidity.  You should also switch to a moisturizing creamy body wash or cleansing oil instead of your regular shower gel. Post-shower, pat skin dry with your towel instead of rubbing, and apply moisturizer while skin is still a bit damp for better absorption. This applies to hand-washing as well. Don’t slow down your hand-washing this winter. Instead, carry a small hand lotion with you and apply after each wash.

3. Taking a shave-cation.

While it’s tempting to take a hiatus from the hair removal game when your legs are in the dark until spring, you shouldn’t let your leg hair hibernate. If you are a keen shaver in spring and summer, you should keep it up in fall and winter, too.

“Don’t skimp on a shaving routine in the winter, as it can lead to more rubbing, chafing and ingrown hairs,” says dermatologist Annie Chiu of the Derm Institute. “Don’t dry shave or use soap—use a moisturizing shave gel that puts hydrating ingredients back into the skin.”

Chiu also recommends using a razor with a moisturizing strip.

4. Forgetting your feet.

Just because it’s not sandal season doesn’t mean your feet deserve any less TLC .

“Apply a moisturizer containing urea on damp feet before putting on your socks,” says Chiu. “This keeps calluses and thickened dry skin from building up with repetitive motions like running.”

Moisturizing your feet daily as part of your winter skin care routine can also give you an opportunity for a mini-foot massage and general check-in on your foot health. Throw in some foot mobility work and consider yourself an all-star in foot care.  

5. Over-exfoliating.

We know, exfoliating feels so good. But in the winter months, you definitely want to do it less.

Why? “This can easily lead to redness when the skin is already dry during the winter months,” notes dermatologist Ted Lain. Keep that redness and irritation at bay by moisturizing more and exfoliating less.

While exfoliating has its place, keep it to once a week, and remember that skin doesn’t have to feel stripped to be clean. And be careful of combining physical exfoliation with chemical exfoliation, which is a no-no always but especially in the colder months when your skin is more vulnerable.

6. Picking the wrong products.

Aesthetician Michele Racioppi recommends paying special attention to what you use to wash your face when the weather turns chilly. “Cleansers can disrupt the skin’s natural pH, leaving it susceptible to dehydration,” she says.

Look for products that are sulfate- and soap-free, and consider skipping the cleanser altogether in the morning. Wash your face gently with water to help retain moisture from your p.m. routine before following up with your usual morning products. 

For moisturizing, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends creams and ointments over lotions because they can retain more moisture, which makes them more effective.

7. Waiting too long to moisturize.

There’s a difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin, and in the winter, most of us have the latter. “Dry skin means that the skin is lacking in oil. Dehydrated skin is when it lacks water,” says Racioppi. “All skin types, oily to dry, can be dehydrated. From my experience, dehydrated skin is quite common and can lead to it feeling tight, dry, and just plain uncomfortable.”

The key is to get out in front of the issue by moisturizing before you need to.

“During the dry winter months, the natural moisture in the skin is extracted by the dehumidified air,” says dermatologist Dr. Ted Lain. “This leaves the skin’s top layer dehydrated, dry, and peeling.”

According to Dr. Lain this can all lead to inflammation, which in turn causes redness, itching and rashes. Be sure to apply a generous amount of moisturizers throughout the day to keep your skin dewy.

8. Forgetting sunscreen.

Just because the sun isn’t always out, doesn’t mean you aren’t getting any dangerous effects. Sunscreen is equally important in a winter skin care routine as it is in summer. 

“The most common form of skin cancer is caused by an accumulation of sun damage,” says Dr. Lain. “Therefore, minimizing direct sun exposure to unprotected skin is extremely important for those who are active outdoors.”

Look for a tinted moisturizer that includes sunscreen to make it easier to incorporate into your routine.  But don’t forget to apply sunscreen to any part of your body that will be exposed while you’re out running.

“Maintaining healthy skin during the winter ensures that you can increase your outdoor activity when spring arrives, without having to deal with dryness and sensitivity,” adds Dr. Lain. “This can flare with higher temperatures and sun exposure, so doing these things in winter not only helps your skin now, but it can help minimize future skin issues, as well.”