Dry skin: Scientists call it xerosis, we call it “winter itch” this time of year. Your first instinct might be to slather on topical creams to instantly relieve yourself from rough, peeling and irritated skin, but for lasting (and more soothing) results, you’ll need to combine your favorite cold-weather skincare products with some basic lifestyle tweaks.
DIY a moisture mask once a week
If you’re flaking, don’t use a harsh scrub to slough off the scales. Instead, thoroughly wet a washcloth or paper towel with cold full-fat milk and place it on your face for 10 minutes. Milk is a natural source of lactic acid, which helps remove dead skin and hydrates the surface layer. If flakes aren’t your concern, layer on aloe gel (get it from the inside of an aloe leaf, which you can buy at a health food store).
Choose moisturizing foods
Foods that contain essential fatty acids (EFAs) keep your skin healthy from the inside out, according to the folks at the Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute. And you’ll see a visible difference in skin texture after consuming sufficient amounts, as EFA-rich foods fortify the skin barrier (the outermost layer that helps keep in moisture while preventing too much from evaporating). Incorporate salmon, mackerel, avocados, flax seeds and walnuts into your diet or consider taking a high-quality omega-3 supplement.
Drink water—enough that it “reaches” your skin
Your cells are made up of water and a lack of it will cause dry, tight and patchy skin, so it goes without saying you should stay hydrated. Here’s the thing: Just a couple of glasses won’t show much of a visible difference because water reaches all your other organs first before getting to the skin, according to the University of Wisconsin Health Hospital. So stay hydrated consistently without fail. On top of drinking a straight glass, eat fruits and vegetables loaded with water, such as watermelon and cucumbers, and drink green juices filled with antioxidant-filled, mineral-rich veggies.
Skip the tanning salon and brighten up naturally
If you’re dreading the pale, lackluster complexion of winter, note that tanning beds will trigger or exacerbate dry skin not to mention cause premature wrinkles. Spray-on bronzers aren’t that great either this time of year (imagine how misting on orange pigments over patches of dead skin would look). But there is an alternative: According to a study published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, you can still maintain a healthy, naturally golden glow by eating a lot of carotenoids, the substance that makes certain fruits and vegetables red (think: carrots and tomatoes). In fact, the researchers suggest people with this veggie-induced glow are considered more attractive than those who tan using other methods.
Avoid moisture-stripping showers
We know it’s freezing, but hot water is drying to the skin, per WebMD. Try to limit yourself to short showers with less-than-lukewarm water, or a dash colder if you can stand it. While you’re in there, ditch traditional bar soaps since they clean dirt—and hydration—off of your skin. Instead, opt for an oil-based scrub.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health
- WebMD: Fighting Back Against Dry Skin
- Medical Daily: Eat Vegetables, Ditch Tanning Beds, And Still Get A Summer Glow The Healthy Way
- Medscape: Managing Dry Skin
- Cosmpolitan: What's a Great DIY Remedy for a Peeling, Flaky Face?
- UW Health: The Benefits of Drinking Water for Your Skin
- American Skin Association: Dry Skin