Your Guide to Winter Skin Protection

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Story Updated: Nov 21, 2012

In the movies, chilly weather leaves starlets looking rosy and flushed. But in reality, the biting wind, harsh temperatures and dry air can take a toll, leading to an irritated, pasty complexion.

Tired of itchy, chaffed skin? We asked the experts to share their advice on safeguarding your skin from the elements. Here's what they said.

Skin Protection Tip No. 1: Moisturize the right way.
"In the winter, you may need to swap your normal lotion for a thicker cream that's more hydrating," says Maggy Hazard, lead aesthetician for The Spa and Wellness Center at Stowe Mountain Lodge in Vermont. She also recommends using a facial serum. "Apply a thin layer on your neck and face before your lotion or night cream," she says. "The serum has smaller particles, so it can better penetrate your pores."

For the best results, rub on lotion immediately after showering. "You want your skin to be slightly damp," says Dr. Ahmet Altiner, an assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and owner of UWS Dermatology & Skin Care in New York City. "The lotion helps lock in the moisture."

Skin Protection Tip No. 2: Turn down the heat.
Steamy showers feel good, but they can leave your skin feeling parched. That's because hot water strips the skin of natural oils, says Altiner. Opt for lukewarm showers lasting no more than 10 minutes. Also use a mild soap, like those tailored to sensitive skin.

Skin Protection Tip No. 3: Consider a humidifier.
Your home's heating system zaps moisture from the air, resulting in Sahara-like conditions. Using a humidifier can help soothe irritated skin, reports a study in the Archives of Environmental Health.

Bonus: You'll also fend off colds and flu in the process. Researchers from Oregon State University showed that the flu virus thrives in dry environments. Adding humidity to the air lowers the odds that those germs will survive for longer periods of time, say the experts.

Skin Protection Tip No. 4: Don't forget the sunscreen.
Since you're covered from head to toe, chances are protecting your skin isn't the first health concern that comes to mind. In fact, 98 percent of Americans neglect to use sunscreen regularly during the winter, according to experts at Ohio State University. But the reality is that the sun is equally strong as in the summer. Plus, the snow can reflect 80 percent of those damaging UV rays, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

To protect yourself, slather on a product with SPF 30 on any exposed skin (for instance, your face, neck and hands) before heading outside.

Skin Protection Tip No. 5: Reach for the right tissues.
On average, adults come down with two to four colds each year, more often during the winter months than any other time of year. All of those sniffles and sneezes can do a number on your skin, resulting in a red, chapped nose. "That's why it's important to invest in soft tissues with lotion," says Hazard. "They're gentler." She also recommends dabbing your nose with a protective ointment, lotion or oil.

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