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As the temperature falls, the layers come on and fire places glow. However, the fight for smooth and healthy skin has just started. The cold winter months can do a number on your skin, causing itching, flaking and bumps. The air becomes cold and dry. With less humidity, the moisture in your skin evaporates quickly.
What’s the trick to beating the effects of this year’s cold-weather season? Separating the myths from facts to help ensure your skin is protected. I checked in with Dr. Arielle Nagler, assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone, to help set us straight. Test your winter care knowledge below!
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1. Myth or fact?: Drinking a lot of water can help dry skin.
Myth. When it comes to directly moisturizing skin, downing gallons of water falls short. We aren’t like plants and don’t bounce back that quickly. We ingest water and it’s absorbed into the bloodstream, which hydrates our cells. Drinking a lot of water won't help with the patchy dry areas associated with winter skin. Though overall, water is good for your body and skin.
The solution? Nagler recommended a good moisturizer, which is great at quickly improving the look and feel of dry skin. Make sure to apply twice a day. Some key ingredients to look for include ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol. The bottom line: a nickel-size, thin layer of lotion will do much more for your skin than drinking a gallon of water.
2. Myth or fact?: Frigid air makes skin peel.
Myth. It’s not the cold air, but the indoor heat that can cause underlying skin conditions, like eczema, to flare up. According to Mayo Clinic, atopic dermatitis or eczema is a condition that makes your skin red and itchy. Nagler said your best bet for flaky skin is to leave it alone and let the body heal on its own. Your body will naturally replace the peeling skin with healthy new skin. If the flakiness persists, there are several over-the-counter creams and lotions you can use.
3. Myth or fact?: Sitting by a fireplace can dry out skin.
Fact. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), sitting around an open flame, like your fireplace, can cause your skin to dry out. Other indoor heat sources that reduce humidity include space heaters, wood-burning ovens and central heating. The dry indoor air not only dries out your skin, but can lead to chapped lips, dry noses and throat. Nagler suggested adding moisture back into the air to remedy this issue. So, invest in a humidifier and plug it in. Also, setting your heater to a lower temperature that still leaves you comfortable can also help.
4. Myth or fact?: Oily skin during winter does not need moisturizing.
Myth. Many people assume that having oily skin means you are less susceptible to winter damage. But cold, dry weather negatively impacts all types of skin. Without humidity, you lose some added protection for your skin. Again, the answer is to moisturize. If creams feel too heavy, try lighter lotions or gel-creams. Always remember to slather on sunscreen to exposed skin before heading out because UV rays are still out there. Winter is just as bad as summer when it comes to sun exposure.
5. Myth or fact?: Taking long steamy showers helps prevent dry skin.
Myth. Let’s face it, it’s cold and all you want is a long, hot shower at the end of the day. However, taking those lengthy, scalding showers can do more damage. The natural oils from the skin are removed, which makes the skin even drier.The solution, according to the AAD, is to limit your showers to 5-10 minutes and to use lukewarm water. When you're out, pat dry gently, without rubbing, with a soft towel and apply moisturizer immediately when you are still damp.
6. Myth or fact?: Shave less often when it's cold out.
Fact. During the winter, the last thing you want to do is irritate your skin — and shaving unnecessarily will do that. Why shave when you are layered up anyway? You can get away with shaving less and save yourself from drier skin. Nagler recommended shaving after a short, warm shower. Make sure to throw out that dull razor and use a sharp one because it will aggravate the skin less. In addition, shaving creams are preferred over gels.
7. Myth or fact?: Switch to a thicker moisturizer to combat winter dryness.
Myth. Moisturizing is key here, but heavier creams aren't necessarily better. Light lotions can be just as effective. It's all about the ingredients in the products and your skin type. Scan the labels before you buy your skincare products. Effective ingredients include hyaluronic or lactic acid.
8. Myth or fact?: Lip balms are addictive.
Fact. Lip balms shouldn’t get all the blame for chapped lips. That comes from licking your lips. The saliva stays on your lips and dehydrates the skin. But applying lip balms can become habit-forming because the wax becomes familiar on the lips. The solution is to stay away from the flavored ones, because it makes you want to lick your lips. Nagler added that you should only use them when you need to. If possible, avoid scented ones as well, since they can cause irritation.
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