Tweak a few habits to ensure dewier days ahead.

By Claire Sullivan
March 04, 2021
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Credit: Jesse Lizotte/Trunk Archive

Months of low humidity and heat blasting in your home have likely left your hair, skin, and body in need of a tall drink of moisture. Learn how to outsmart the sly wintertime culprits that make you feel parched from head to toe, and then send yourself on a balmy full-body retreat.

Wield Warm Water

Long, steamy showers may feel soothing when it's cold outside, but they strip the body of moisture, says New York dermatologist Marina Peredo. The same goes for often-sanitized hands: Wash them with tepid water to avoid drawing out your natural oils.

Turn Down the Temp

Artificial heat is arid heat, so don't crank it. Set your thermostat to 74 degrees max, suggests Peredo, and wear comfy layers (silk thermals, fleecy joggers) instead. Another easy fix: Power on a humidifier, says Beverly Hills, California, dermatologist Ava Shamban. Run it at night and it can replenish your skin (as well as dry eyes and sinuses) while you sleep.

Make Up for Meds

"Some blood-pressure medications, antihistamines, and topical or oral retinols can cause skin to become drier than usual," says Dr. Peredo, who suggests switching from lotions to richer face and body creams in winter. The same goes for acne treatments, says New York City dermatologist Joyce Davis. Use them sparingly on spots, rather than applying them all over.

Replenish Your Hair and Scalp

If you find your head feels itchy when you're using the same shampoo that works great in summer, swap it for a creamy wash, and lather up no more than two to three times a week. Also steer clear of heat stylers, and pay attention to how your strands feel: If they're straw-like or quick to tangle, apply an oil every other day. Moroccan Oil All in One Leave-in Conditioner ($26, nordstrom.com) can be spritzed onto towel-dried hair or pumped onto your hands and worked into dry ends; it softens with sunflower-seed oil and amino acids.

Nourish Your Lips

Your mask shields them from the elements, but they can still shrivel like raisins in low humidity overnight. To prevent chapping, dab on a balm after brushing your teeth and eating, and before bed. Avoid flavored formulas—cinnamon, citrus, and mint are among the most irritating. Dr. Shamban suggests Avène Cold Cream Nourishing Lip Balm ($14, ulta.com), which is packed with emollient beeswax and plant-based squalene. If your lips flake and peel, don't pull! Gently exfoliate them with a mixture of sugar and few drops of coconut oil.

Try an Occulusive on Your Hands

Sanitizing gels are saviors in our new reality, until they make our skin feel reptilian: That's because they have to be at least 60 percent alcohol to work effectively. The best solution is to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently instead, says Dr. Peredo, but if you're on the go, stow a hydrating option in your purse, like Dove Nourishing Hand Sanitizer ($3, walgreens.com). Once it dries, follow with a fragrance-free, occlusive salve (look for glycerin on the label). Dr. Davis likes Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream ($6, walgreens.com).

Exfoliate Knees and Elbows

These joints are weight-bearing (picture yourself planting bulbs, or leaning into a video call), so they naturally have thicker skin, says Dr. Shamban. Avoid ashy, elephant-esque patches with a physical exfoliant, which removes dead cells so you can moisturize the new ones beneath. Dr. Peredo suggests using one with soothing, as opposed to stripping, properties—Kiehl's Gently Exfoliating Grapefruit Body Scrub ($36, bergdorfgoodman.com) calms with chamomile and aloe vera to leave skin supple, not scratched up.

Shave Legs Carefully

A razor sweeps away stubble—and your skin's natural oils, explains Dr. Shamban. Use shaving cream, which provides a protective buffer, and save this step for the end of your shower, so you can apply moisturizer stat (it penetrates more deeply into still-damp skin). Davis suggests EltaMD Moisture-Rich Body Crème; it quenches with mango-seed butter and ceramides ($9, dermstore.com). At the drugstore, consider Aveeno Restorative Skin Therapy Oat Repairing cream (from $6, walgreens.com). But why stop there? Smooth it on all over, while you're at it.

Take a One-Two Punch with Your Feet

When calluses and cracks break your spirit, exfoliation and hydration are your healing super-couple. Dr. Shamban recommends using Isdin Uradin Podos Hydrating Gel Oil ($33, amazon.com), which contains both sloughing and moisturizing lactic acid. Or follow Dr. Peredo's advice, and rub your heels and other rough spots with a pumice stone in the shower weekly; coat them with a thick balm, like Burt's Bees Coconut Foot Creme ($11, walgreens.com); and—it's an oldie but a goodie—sleep in socks.

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