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Red. Itchy. Flaking. Cracking. Cold weather can wreak havoc on your skin.
“The winter months are by far the worst months for everyone's skin,” says Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of the Joanna Vargas Salon and Skincare Collection. “I think most women try and step up their game with extra products, but no one really seems to know what works, what doesn’t and why.”
To help figure it out, we turned to Vargas and other experts for tips on how to beat dry skin. From DIY masks to the best way to apply deodorant and skipping the suds on certain body parts, here are 11 ways to show the polar vortex who’s boss.
Ease up on exfoliating. Vargas says a dry environment leads to skin sensitivity. “If you use retinols daily or if you try and scrub the skin more than once a week you will risk making the skin drier, patchy and red,” she says. “This type of eczema will spread and make the whole face inflamed.”
Use the right razor. Underarms often are a neglected part of the body, and studies have shown women scrape off a hefty amount of skin cells when shaving their armpits. New York-based dermatologist Dr. Ellen Marmur says many women use disposable razors four or five times, rendering them dull. So, if you like to shave daily, invest in a woman-specific razor designed to handle the curves and angles of the underarm.
Cut out the coffee. Well, at least in the afternoon. Vargas says to swap your 4 p.m. caffeine break at your desk for a green juice, instead. “It will hydrate and refresh your skin from the inside out,” she says. “It will also give you a great kick of energy that you won't feel from just a coffee.”
Swap out your products. Just as you change your clothing from summer to winter, your skincare may need a seasonal change, too. “Eliminate the body scrubs and acne washes in the shower and switch to more mild cleansers,” says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C.
Go green for breakfast. Vargas says another great tip for curing winter skin is to throw half an avocado into your morning smoothie. “The extra fats in avocado will make your skin soft and smooth from the inside out,” she says. Also, try a moisturizer with jojoba oil and avocado oil in it, like Vargas’s Daily Hydrating Cream. “Those two ingredients are amazing for keeping the skin hydrated, even in the driest of conditions,” she says.
Treat Your Pits More Like the Rest of Your Skin: Marmur points out that underarms are often overlooked in a woman's skincare regimen but can suffer from dryness and irritation as much as any other body part. Her three-step process for caring for them begins in the shower, using your favorite gentle cleanser. “You don’t want to use a harsh soap because that can strip away the oils in your skin,” she says, Next, rinse and dry thoroughly, including the area under the breast, which Marmur says, is often neglected and can cause skin irritation. “Then, step three is to apply deodorant with three nice swipes: up, down, up.” Marmur recommends Dove Advanced Care Deodorant, a product that she represents for the brand.
As for how much armpit area to cover, Marmur says sweat glands extend past the hair follicles. “You can’t see them, but they go a couple inches around that whole hollow,” she says, recommending you apply deodorant “even a couple inches up your arm, and all the way down to your bra.”
Take a tea bath. No, really. Vargas says her family secret for healing dry, sensitive skin is to boil a large pot of water with one cup of chamomile tea leaves and one cup of rosemary. Steep for 15 minutes, then strain and add the mixture to your bath water. “Not only will you feel relaxed from your day, this potion will soothe your skin like nothing else,” she says. “Dry patches and redness will disappear overnight.”
Snap out of it in the shower. We love a super long, really hot shower – you know, the kind where you’re pretty much hypnotized by the steam, but it’s not great for your skin – especially your back. Marmur says to turn down the heat a bit, but also to turn your body around so that the water isn’t hitting the same spot on your back for 20 minutes straight. “Then choose bath products that have moisturizer in them,” she says. “Or you can even use your hair conditioner on your body.” And once you get out, dry off well and don’t forget to moisturize again.
Sweeten up. “Exfoliate with a nice sugar scrub once a week on the body in the shower then follow up with a shea butter moisturizer,” Tanzi says. “It will keep you smooth for the entire week.”
Whip up a DIY mask. Vargas loves to mix 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 avocado and 1/4 cup honey. Leave it on the skin for 20 minutes, then rinse. “The yogurt in this hydrating mask is an anti-inflammatory with a lactic acid component,” she says. “Avocado is something I recommend for any skin type – avocado has lots of B vitamins and fatty acids, so it’s essential to keep the skin hydrated, even in dry winter weather. The honey also hydrates, and will really transform the skin.”
Save your soap. “In the winter, cut back on the amount you are cleansing certain parts of your body,” Tanzi says. “I tell my patients to only cleanse areas that really need it, like underarms, groin and feet. Everywhere else (like arms, legs and stomach) are not getting that dirty and even the mildest cleansers will strip the skin of much needed essential oils in the winter.”