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When the cold weather comes, we know to dress warmly to protect our bodies from the elements -- but it's our skin that needs the most TLC. Why? Going from the frosty outdoors to the toasty indoors (and back out again), combined with winter's low humidity, compromises the skin's ability to retain moisture. The result: chapped, flaking, tight, and itchy skin, particularly on your face, hands, and feet, which are the most affected by wind, rain, and snow. There is hope, however, since maintaining and replenishing your skin's moisture requires just a bare minimum of cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing. And if you have more time, we've included a particularly pampering treat for every part of your body.
Good winter skincare starts here, when you allow only the gentlest cleansers to come into contact with your skin. And remember: Use warm rather than hot water to rinse your face to preserve as much moisture as possible. Avoid irritating acid-based ingredients such as glycolic acid or retinol.
Great to try: Dr. Jessica Wu Cosmeceuticals Gentle Foaming Cleanser, $40, thoroughly cleans while pampering the skin with Chinese botanicals, such as white peony; Pond's Pristine Clean Gentle Cleansing Foam, $6.99, soothes and protects with white tea extracts and vitamin E.Exfoliate
Because your skin's natural ability to whisk away the dead cells on the outer layer diminishes with age, you'll need to help the process along. And this is even more important in the winter, when a smooth surface is necessary in order to absorb all of the moisture your skin craves. Make sure to choose products with gentle buffing beads, as rougher scrubs will only inflame itchiness and dry patches.
Great to try: N.Y.C. New York Color Smooth Skin Exfoliating Creme Cleanser/Toner, $4.99, has micro-beads for gentle cleansing and exfoliation; Skin Effects by Dr. Jeffrey Dover Purifying Effects Deep-Cleaning Enzyme Scrub, $6.99, is formulated with deep-cleaning enzymes, which gently revive the complexion.Moisturize
While it's tempting to switch to the thickest moisturizer you can find in winter, doing so can lead to breakouts, especially if your skin is naturally oily. Instead, pick products that suit your skin type and apply them while skin is still damp to lock in the hydration.
Great to try: EmerginC Active Hydrating Complex, $42, utilizes an apple-and-water complex, as well as aloe vera gel; Eau Thermale Avene Rich Compensating Cream ($28) contains spring water, said to be extremely gentle.Extra Indulgence
Once you've mastered the facial basics, take a step further with a hydrating mask. Some, like the Biotherm Aquasource Non-Stop Emergency Hydration Mask, $21, are gentle enough to be used daily. Your skin will love the moisture boost.
Hands often get shortchanged, which is downright unfair since they literally do so much heavy lifting! Yes, you want your hands to be clean, but excessive use of products such as antibacterial hand cleansers will only siphon away precious moisture, says Dr. Jeffrey Dover, MD, a dermatologist near Boston, and associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, in New Haven, Connecticut. Instead, choose gentle hand cleansers with softening ingredients, such as shea butter or aloe vera.
Great to try: Softsoap Brand Shea Butter Liquid Hand Soap, $2.19, cleanses hands while pampering them; C.O. Bigelow Chapped Hands Cleanser, $12, is a soap-free formula with conditioning jojoba and aloe.Exfoliate
Like the skin on your face, your hands are vulnerable to an overaccumulation of dead skin cells. Regular exfoliation prevents hands from building up thick, rough skin, making them less likely to peel or crack, says Dr. Audrey Kunin, MD, a dermatologist based in Kansas City, Missouri, and author of The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual.
Great to try: L'Oreal Refinish Chest, Arms & Hands Gentle Micro-Dermabrasion Exfoliator ($24.99 for the 2-product kit) uses both finely milled aluminum oxide crystals and pumice to soften hands; Origins Spice Odyssey Foaming Body Rub, $27.50, makes your hands ultra soft with avocado and almond oils and smells delightful, too.Moisturize
Freezing weather presents a double-whammy for hands: Even humdrum activities, such as washing dishes, can leave skin and cuticles looking ragged, as repeated water exposure strips away essential moisture. Glycerin, which attracts and holds water -- is a lifesaving ingredient to look for, as are natural moisturizers such as honey and shea butter. Remember that in cold weather, hand cream is as essential as your lipstick -- don't leave home without it!
Great to try: De-luxe SHEA 25% Pure Shea Butter Hand Creme, $7.99, combines shea butter with glycerin for ultimate hydration; DERMAdoctor Handy Manum Anti-Itch Fissure Relief, $27, has hydrocortisone to help heal cracks in the epidermis -- it's even helpful for eczema and psoriasis sufferers.Extra Indulgence
Ready to take hand-softening task to the next level? Then set aside a few minutes, two or three times a week, to slip on a moisturizing spa glove. We like Earth Therapeutics' Soft-Hands Gel Gloves, $24.99, with a jojoba and olive oil-infused lining.
Our tender tootsies, habitually encased in constricting socks, panty hose, and boots, take a particular beating in winter. Dry soles, heels, and tortured toes need natural softeners such as aloe and Vitamin E as they carry you hither and yon.
Great to try: Blue Q Hot & Flashy Revitalizing Body Wash and Shower Supplement, $12, wakes up your feet -- and your senses -- with lemongrass and cedar; True Blue Spa Footloose and Fancy Fizz Effervescent Foot Soak, $15, refreshes and cleanses tired tootsies.Exfoliate
Though a good exfoliator will prevent a thick layer of hard skin and calluses from building up on your feet, skip the overly rough pumice stone, advises Dr. David Colbert, MD, a dermatologist in New York City and founder of the New York Dermatology Group. Instead, keep heels smooth with products that soothe as well as buff, such as moisturizing foot scrubs and creams with softening ingredients, like glycolic acid.
Great to try: Victoria's Spa Secrets Warming Foot Scrub, $14, removes rough spots while moisturizing with three butters: shea, cupuacu, and illipe; Collective Wellbeing Gentle Buffing Bar, $5, combines ground walnut shells and pumice for gentle exfoliation and has peppermint to cool.Moisturize
Most people use their body moisturizers on their feet, but to see significant improvements you should use a cream created specifically for the thicker skin on the foot; even those with exfoliating acids are worth considering to remove super-rough spots.
Great to try: Aveeno Intense Relief Foot Cream, $5.99, contains a medley of good-for-your-feet ingredients, including oatmeal, exfoliating acid, and peppermint; Lather Lavender and Eucalyptus Foot Creme, $18, softens with aloe vera and calms with eucalyptus and sage.Extra Indulgence
Extend your foot-pampering experience by stepping into a pair of exfoliating slippers. Simply slide them on (we like Lippmann Collection Footloose Loofah Exfoliating Pedi-Slippers, $29.50) and walk around while the loofah-lined soles buff your feet to perfection in five minutes or more.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, November 2005.