When winter sets in, instinct tells us to hunker down and crank up the heat. But this quest for warmth brings on another set of problems. Not only does the air outside parch our skin, indoor heating toasts it dry. "As the temperature drops, so does humidity," says Valori Treloar, M.D., founder of Integrative Dermatology in Newton, Massachusetts, and coauthor of "The Clear Skin Diet." "So winter air literally sucks moisture from your skin." Add a penchant for long, hot showers that wash away protective oils, and you've got a recipe for dryness and flakes.
Your strategy for a healthy winter glow starts from within. "Irrigate it from the inside," says "Anti-Aging Therapy" author Ping Zhang, Ph.D., a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner. That means drinking more caffeine-free fluids, including water, fruit juice, and herbal teas. But even the best-nourished skin needs help, and that's where creams, balms, and oils come in. Packed with the planet's richest moisturizers and most powerful soothers, these products leave skin radiant and ready for anything winter throws its way.
Dry, cold air batters your exposed face, causing inflammation, redness, and sensitivity.
Use a mild, milky cleanser, since detergents in soap strip skin of protective natural oils, says Treloar. With your skin slightly damp, moisturize with a thick cream at night and a lighter lotion in the morning. Look for facial products with anti-inflammatory herbs like calendula, and avoid ones with alcohol and synthetic preservatives, fragrances, and coloring, as these can cause dryness and irritation. Exfoliate with a natural scrub (like sugar) to slough off dull skin, and use a hydrating mask once or twice a week.
Replenishing Cleansing Lotion by Jurlique, $40, jurlique.com
Mandarin Maximum Moisture by John Masters Organics, $48, johnmasters.com
Daily Moisture Screen SPF 15 by Zia Natural Skincare, $19.95, zianatural.com
Wine Hydrating Mask by Arcona, $38, arcona.com
Thin skin and lack of oil leaves lips naturally dry and extra vulnerable. Seasonal congestion often forces you to breathe through your mouth, which leads to chapping. Licking your lips when they're dry makes matters worse, since evaporating saliva can cause cracks.
Before going outside or hitting the sack, apply a waxy balm to lock in moisture and protect against evaporation, advises Treloar. By day, use a creamy or oily lip treatment with mainly edible ingredients (since you'll be ingesting much of what you put on your lips). Avocado, olive, or soybean soften and soothe, while vitamin A-rich shea butter promotes healing.
Pomegranate Lip Butter by Archipelago, $12.50, uncommonscents.com
Organic Soothing Lip Balm by Origins, $15, origins.com
Herbal Lip Elixir by Pharmacopia, $7.95, drugstore.com
Lip Calm by John Masters Organics, $6, johnmasters.com
Long, hot showers and harsh soaps zap natural moisture that's already in short supply due to the weather. Heavily perfumed fabric softeners and chemical-laden laundry detergents clinging to your clothes can also aggravate parched skin.
Take warm rather than hot showers, and use a mild body wash with soothing ingredients like aloe vera. After patting your skin dry (never rub), apply a thick moisturizer such as shea butter while skin is still damp to seal in moisture. (Edible oils like coconut and organic olive oil work, too.) Use fragrance- and dye-free laundry detergents and avoid fabric softeners. Ease intense itching with a cool compress.
Beauty Body Oil with Grapeseed by L'Occitane, $30, loccitane.com
100% Virgin Olive Oil Face & Body Bar Soap (Fragrance Free) by Olivella, $2.79, olivellasoap.com
Hammam Tangerine Fig Butter Creme by Red Flower, $52, redflower.com
Stress Melt Butter Salt by Ahava, $22, ahavaus.com
Hands and Feet
Exposure to the elements, coupled with frequent washing to ward off seasonal germs, leaves hands dry and chapped. Boot-clad feet end up cracked and sore -- and the closed environment provides a hospitable place for fungus to grow.
Always pat hands dry and apply hand cream after washing them; wear gloves when you do the dishes. For intensive treatment, use heavy creams containing shea butter before going to bed to help repair cracks. For feet, try a balm with peppermint or tea tree oil at night to fight fungus, and cover your feet with cotton socks. Zhang also recommends soaking feet in an Epsom salt solution once a week.
Jasmine Hand Cream by Akhassa, $18, akhassausa.com
Protecting & Rejuvenating Hand Cream by Brigit True Organics, $9.70, brigittrueorganics.com
Peppermint Tea Tree Foot Balm by Naturopathica, $28, naturopathica.com
Mandi Susu Bath Soak by Aspara Aromatics, $18, aspara-aromatics.com