Snowflakes may make you feel nostalgic for a cup of hot cocoa this winter, but when flaky, itchy skin crops up on your face and scalp, it’s an entirely different story. We totally understand, and it’s why we’ve gathered the best expert tips and products to make you feel and look your best this season. So don’t let the beauty blues get the best of you, even when the temperature dips and the forecast calls for glaciers. Here’s how to keep your cool when it’s freezing outside.
You can thank the dry winter air for zapping moisture out of your face. To put that hydration back in, a category of ingredients known as humectants work the fastest magic. “Hyaluronic acid in particular draws moisture back into skin, and can hold 100 times its weight in water,” says New York dermatologist Doris Day, M.D. We like Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream ($26.50), which fragments hyaluronic acid so that it can penetrate skin cells more deeply. And try switching from a lathering to a cream cleanser to retain more moisture while washing with a comforting formula like ($6).
If your hands and cuticles look and feel beaten up, it’s likely frequent handwashing that is the root cause, says Washington, D.C dermatologist, Rebecca Kazin, M.D., who recommends keeping a thick moisturizer with you to use after every time you wash. We’re loving this L’Occitane travel set ($16) filled with the brand’s signature organic shea butter that makes taking the skin-saving ingredient on the go a cinch. Stock them in your handbag, at your desk and on your bathroom counter to use throughout the day for softer hands and nails. Bonus: a touch can also help smooth winter flyaways.
If your makeup slips on smoothly in the morning but mysteriously grows cakey by the afternoon, it likely means that your skin is dehydrated and causing your foundation to lift up and get bumpy. Try using a hydrating serum on clean, damp skin to prep your face before makeup, says Day. Our favorites include MyChelle Advanced Argan Oil ($14.50), which nourishes skin with a lightweight and organic version of the super oil, and Grand Central Beauty S.M.A.R.T Skin Perfecting Serum + Primer ($68) that utilizes watermelon, squalane and apple to drench skin in rapidly-absorbing hydration.
“When a fungus called malassezia grows out of control, it feeds on the oil in your scalp and leads to a dry, flaking scalp,” explains Lisa Brodar, co-founder of Portland General Store. While most dermatologists recommend using a shampoo with zinc or tar, not everyone enjoys sudsing with medicinal formulas. Using a sulfate and paraben-free shampoo and conditioner can help balance oils, by not stripping the scalp with harsh detergents that lead to dandruff. Brodar also recommends regular aerobic exercise to improve blood circulation to the scalp, eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and seaweed, and brushing hair daily to maintain scalp health.
Not only are cold sores uncomfortable, but they often cause even more embarrassment than pain. Rest assured, you’re not alone: according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Herpes simplex virus 1 (which causes cold sores) infects more than half of the U.S. population by the time they reach their 20s. Our weapon of choice is Carmex’s new cold sore treatment ($15) that relieves pain and itch with 10% benzocaine. Three optical diffusers are blended into the formula to minimize the appearance of the sore. We also like the use of silicone elastomers that give the product a smooth, silky feel so you feel like you’re applying a fancy primer, not a medicated salve.
“I call this ‘the winter itch!’” said Dr. Kazin, who blames fragranced soaps and drying body washes with strong detergents as the most common causes of this stubborn issue. Skip soap and switch to a gentle body wash formula like JÄsön Fragrance Free Body Wash ($9), which soothes skin with aloe leaf juice, chamomile and glycerin. Immediately follow with body lotion within a minute of stepping out of the shower to maximize moisturize retention. “Also, unless your legs are physically dirty, you can just wash your underarms, bikini area, hands and feet to decrease the amount of essential oils you lose in the shower,” advises Kazin. The suds from these parts as well as your shampoo is enough to cleanse your legs.
If you’re suddenly sprouting more crow’s feet, we promise it’s not because you’re aging faster overnight. Lower humidity levels in the fall and winter exacerbate the look of existing fine lines, and can make new ones appear before their time. But relax – Dr. Day says that simply adding effective hydration with an ingredient like glycerin can instantly erase fine lines in this delicate area by plumping skin with moisture. We’re fans of Vichy Idéalia Eyes ($31), which packs the star ingredient with shea butter to hydrate, as well as caffeine and light reflectors to improve the look of dark circles, too.