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Cold-Weather Skin Tips

Best little tips and tricks for keeping skin and hair looking radiant until spring.

Stay smooth all season long
Forget blizzard warnings. Winter should come with another weather advisory—rough beauty conditions ahead. The main culprits are cold air, which holds less moisture than warm air, and low humidity and central heating, which make already dry hair and skin even drier. But cold weather also hits harder as you get older, when the production of skin’s natural moisturizers dips with age, says Doris Day, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center. The result: Your skin becomes rough and flaky while your hair feels dry and loses its shine. These simple cold weather beauty tricks will help your skin smooth, your hair shiny, and your makeup looking fresh well past the groundhog’s springtime start date.

1. Invest in a humidifier
If your heating system doesn’t have a built-in humidifier, place a portable unit in your bedroom to add extra moisture into the air and prevent dry skin and eyes in the winter. Set the unit for 30 to 50% humidity during the winter months, advises the Consumer Product Safety Commission. (Humidity levels above 60% may allow moisture to build up and condense on surfaces where bacteria can settle and flourish.) Change water in your humidifier daily and clean out the unit every week to destroy bacteria that can grow in stagnant water. Breathing in dirty mist can cause respiratory problems that are especially dangerous to allergy or asthma sufferers.

2. Brighten up with bronzer
If your skin has taken on a Kermit-like tinge, counteract it with bronzer or self-tanner. Yes, the bronzer you loved last summer can still work for you in the doldrums of February. Just keep in mind that you are paler now, so pick a formula that’s one or two shades lighter than what you used during bathing-suit weather.

3. Change your blush
Trade in summer’s orangey-yellow shades and for pink and rosy hues, which will perk up your skin and make you look like you just came in from the cold.

4. Combat static hair
Moisture conducts electricity, so low humidity and temperatures leave hair prone to static cling-which increases fivefold for every 10-degree drop in the mercury during cold weather, explains Yohini Appa, PhD, Senior Director, Scientific Affairs at Neutrogena Oil production in the scalp also declines with each passing decade, making frizz and flyaways more likely. Check out this 60-second solution for smoothing stray hairs.

5. Switch up your shampoo schedule
Shampoo every 2 or 3 days. Daily washing depletes natural oils; it also means you’re more likely to use high heat styling tools like flat irons and dryers.

6. Condition before you wash
Coat dry hair with a “pre-wash conditioner” or deep conditioner that contains jojoba, lavender, shea butter, or rosemary oils for up to an hour to trap moisture in the hair, suggests Carmine Minardi, co-owner of the Minardi Salon in New York City. (Wearing a shower cap makes it less messy; wrapping a warm towel over the cap helps the conditioner penetrate the cuticle, the hair’s outer layer.) “Do this once a week for finer hair and up to twice weekly if hair is coarse or colored with permanent dye-which is more prone to dryness.” Afterward, shampoo with a moisturizing formula and follow with a leave-in conditioner-preferably one that contains with ceramides, naturally occurring lipids that penetrate the cuticle and give strands shine and elasticity.

7. Control static with your brush
When styling your hair, use a boar-bristle brush; it’s less prone to static buildup than metal-, plastic-, or nylon bristles, and smoothes the cuticle with the least trauma to hair, says Minardi. Avoid styling products with alcohol. These include many gels and mousses. Better options for treating hair in cold weather: styling creams packed with emollients like panthenol, silicone, or essential oils to add shine and texture without drying out hair.

8. Try these swaps for dry hands
Choose a hand sanitizer forumlated with aloe vera, which offsets the drying effect of germ-killing alcohol. Then, switch out your regular hand lotion for a formula with SPF. UVA light, which is present 365 days a year, prevents production of skin’s natural moisturizers. And finally, turn down the heat when you wash your hands. Hot water strips the skin of its natural oils.

9. Use a creamy cleanser
Use a milky cleanser with alpha hydroxy acids every other day to help encourage cell turnover and remove the dead cells accumulating on the skin’s surface. Unlike their predecessors, today’s alpha hydroxy formulas are gentle enough to do their work without causing skin sensitivity.

10. Slather on a rich moisturizer
Postshower, pat skin almost dry and apply an oil-based cream instead of a lighter lotion to better trap and lock moisture into skin to fight cold weather dryness. Look for ingredients such as beeswax, squalane, petrolatum, and shea butter. To boost absorption, warm your jar of cream in a sink of hot water while you shower.

11. Take shorter showers
“Hot water might feel good on a cold morning, but it strips the skin, leaving it dehydrated and itchy,” says David Bank, MD, a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, NY. Keep your showers under 10 minutes and use water that’s just warm enough.

12. Moisturize again before bed
Hydrating skin at least twice a day is ideal—after a morning shower or bath and then right before turning in for the night. “There’s a slight elevation in body temperature while you’re sleeping, so products seep into skin better,” says Bank. Here are some tips for finding your perfect night cream.

13. Slip into gloves and socks at night
Dampen hands and feet, slather on your favorite heavy-duty moisturizer, and wear cotton gloves and socks for a few hours or to bed—they’ll block evaporation and help the cream penetrate more effectively, says Day.

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