Health & Wellness

7 ways to soothe and protect winter skin, from milk baths to DIY scrubs

Is the chilly weather making your skin dry and irritated? Are your feet flaky? Lips cracked? Join the club!

The good news is, it only takes a few easy tweaks to your normal regimen to get your skin looking and feeling radiant all winter long, according to Manhattan dermatologists Dr. Amy Wechsler and Dr. Whitney Bowe.

Here, they offer seven tips on how to soothe and protect ourselves this season. Can you totally relate? Share these tips with your friends on Pinterest!

1. Love your lips.

Lip balms work, says Wechsler, but you want to be sure to find a brand without phenol or formaldehyde in them.

"Those ingredients actually dry the lips out even more," she said, and they're in many popular brands including Blistex and Carmex.

RELATED: Cure all your winter skin woes from tip to toes

2. Ditch the loofah.

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"Never use a loofah. Throw away your loofah. Loofahs are terrible!" said Bowe. Loofahs create "micro tears" in the skin, she says, and that's the last thing you want when it's dry and irritated.

Loofahs are also a breeding ground for bacteria. They're porous with "nooks and crannies" that never fully dry out between showers.

But don't reach for a washcloth instead, says Wechsler. They're a lot rougher on skin than people realize, too.

3. Time those soaps and suds right.

If you can't live without that weekly bubble bath, there's one thing you should know: Don’t put soaps or cleansers in the water until you're near the end of your bath.

"If you’re just going to chill out and relax," said Wechsler," the soap and the cleanser is even worse than the water in terms of drying out your skin."

Also, don't use piping hot water in the tub or the shower. "The hotter the water, the drier the skin," she said.

RELATED: How to treat your winter skin woes

4. Take a cue from Cleopatra.

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Want to pamper dry skin? Take a lesson from history's foxiest pharaoh, Cleopatra. The Egyptian beauty combated desert-dry skin by adding milk to her bath, says Wechsler.

Whole milk's lactic acid soothes inflamed, irritated skin. Use a quart or so per bath.

Bowe takes the ritual up a notch by adding honey and a packet of Quaker's instant oatmeal to water, too. Both are soothing and anti-inflammatory. An added bonus? Honey is proven to heal skin wounds.

5. Use oils to moisturize.

According to both Wechsler and Bowe, everyday kitchen oils are also effective moisturizers.

Safflower and sunflower oil are their top recommendations.

Safflower oil is lighter and less aromatic than the rest, says Wechsler, plus it's loaded with linoleic acid, fatty acids that rejuvenate the skin.

RELATED: 4 skin care products to protect against cold weather

Sunflower oil, says Bowe, is "amazing for helping with the skin barrier and helping trap moisture."

Bowe tells patients to keep a bottle in the bathroom, and to douse themselves within five minutes of bathing, paying attention to the area from the knee to the ankle. "What a lot of people don’t realize is we really have barely any oil glands on our lower legs, which is why they get so flaky," she said.

6. Throw out the back scratcher.

Angeliki Jackson/TODAY

Our skin lacks hydration and moisture in cold months — especially on our backs, which can make them itchy.

But scratching is the worst thing you can do. "The more you scratch, the more you irritate the nerves," said Bowe. "They start to grow and expand and multiply and the nerve endings almost crave that scratching. It’s a vicious cycle."

Instead, hydrate the area. "Right after a shower, put a moisturizer on your back," she said.

7. Treat your feet.

Angeliki Jackson/TODAY

Feet take a beating during the winter. They get stuck in cold, damp shoes, which dry them out. Heels get rough and calloused.

Make a DIY exfoliant to scrub away dead skin cells. "I love mixing brown sugar with almond oil or coconut oil and using that as a scrub," said Bowe.

RELATED: How to fight 6 winter skin bummers

Rinse, pat dry and then rub on your favorite oil or moisturizer. Finish by putting on cotton socks to trap in hydration. "Literally the next morning your feet feel brand new," she said.

You should also skip nail polish — on hands and feet — this time of year, says Wechsler. "Polish dries out your nails."

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