For Glamour, by Cristina Mueller.
Winter is coming! And along with it comes the Night King and its wight army of winter-skin issues: chapped lips (the worst), dry skin, dullness, and more. We know, they’re the last thing you want to deal with while you’re juggling 75 holiday obligations. The chilly outdoor temps, the drying indoor heat, and the flowing holiday booze aren’t doing us any favors either.
We asked a few top derms to break down the best tricks for handling gnarly cold-weather skin upsets, so you can get back to the ten billion other things on your to-do list between now and New Year’s Eve. Here’s their best advice on how to treat...
The cause: “Acne at its most basic level is hormonal,” says New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D. And it can be trickier to treat in the winter since many typical acne fighters like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are, by nature, very drying, says dermatologist Jennifer Lee, M.D., of Franklin, Tennessee.
The solution: We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Moisture! Breakout-prone skin needs it too; because overdry skin can get even more inflamed. In winter swap your usual formulas for lower-strength versions, around 2 percent. And don’t skip that crucial step of applying a hydrating face cream or oil (yes, certain oils do work for oily types) by balancing skin, says Dr. Lee; try Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil. Also, Dr. Zeichner is excited about Neutrogena’s at-home Light Therapy Acne Mask; the full-face device — think hockey mask — uses red and blue LED lights to reduce inflammation and painlessly obliterate acne bacteria. Just remove makeup and wear the mask for 10 minutes — no drying, no irritation, done.
The cause: Harsh weather alone may be responsible, but other offenders include too-frequent applications of the balm that’s supposed to cure you. “I see people who are like, ‘I don’t understand, I’m using my lip balm 10 times a day!’ ” says Dr. Lee. “But when you’re exposed that often to any formula, you can sometimes develop an irritant dermatitis to the chemicals in it.”
The solution: Extra-gentle exfoliation with a sugar scrub or a soft washcloth can slough away dead skin; then follow with a nice, thick balm application before bed (Dr. Zeichner recommends super-mild CeraVe healing ointment). If you suspect you fall into the balm-abuser category, Dr. Lee recommends a salve with non-irritating lanolin or plain petrolatum, nixing any fragrances or flavors (try John Masters Lip Calm) and cutting back on how often you apply it throughout the day; severe cases might need a derm-prescribed topical steroid before lips can fully heal. And hard as it may be, resist the urge to lick your lips, says Dr. Zeichner: “Saliva has an acidic pH, which can cause more irritation than hydration.”
The cause: “When the air is drier, skin can be drier. And you get that illusion of dullness when you have old, dead skin cells on the top layer of your skin,” says Dr. Lee. They’re a sign you’re not exfoliating well enough and that you might not be adequately hydrated.
The solution: Exfoliation is your best friend; an oscillating face brush in the shower or a twice-weekly chemical peel like Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel can loosen that build- up, says Dr. Zeichner. Other important tools in your nighttime glow-boosting kit include serums with vitamin C, an antioxidant that can fade discoloration, or retinol, which spurs cell turnover. Don’t forget to moisturize afterward, says Dr. Lee (otherwise you might be looking at issue number four, flaky skin). Face masks (like L’Oréal Paris Pure-Clay Mask Exfoliate & Refine) often do double duty, says Dr. Zeichner. They brighten and deeply hydrate simultaneously.
The cause: Dry heat blasting 24/7 is a primary culprit, but so are the long, hot showers you’re taking.
The solution: The first impulse is to scrub all the roughness away — “but pay attention,” warns Dr. Zeichner. “If you’re doing a lot of exfoliation and your skin is really parched and patchy, that’s a sign you may be disrupting the skin’s protective moisture barrier.” Instead of exfoliating, try hydrating: First, he says, swap out regular face washes for creamy and nonfoaming cleansers or a micellar water. (Some of our favorites, here.)
Then look for moisturizing creams and serums with colloidal oatmeal, sweet almond oil, or ceramides. Keep showers short and lukewarm — and apply your hydrator (we like This Works No Wrinkles Extreme Moisturizer) within five minutes of exiting the shower, while the bathroom is still steamy. Once you’ve integrated these steps into your routine, then and only then can you proceed to any sort of exfoliation. Even so, go for a mild chemical exfoliant like a face or body lotion with lactic acid, says Dr. Lee. You don’t need a gritty scrub to get skin soft. (The same strategy works for your body too.)
The cause: Fluid retention (a.k.a., what happens when you’ve overloaded on salty chips, sushi, canapés, and your aunt’s awesome cheese straws). Lack of sleep and drinking too much can also bring it on.
The solution: Your quickest fix to undereye bags is the old tea bag trick. Lightly dampen two green tea bags with cool water and place them under your eyes for 10 minutes. “Caffeine constricts blood vessels,” explains Dr. Zeichner. “Plus you get the added antioxidants from the green tea.” Similarly, a caffeine-based serum (like Origins GinZing Energy-Boosting Moisturizer) will tighten and firm all over if your whole face feels puffy. And start chugging water like a marathoner, says Dr. Lee. “Staying well-hydrated with plain water means you’ll pee out all the excess salt and bring down puffiness,” she explains.
At night, massage on an eye cream with a mild retinol (like Kate Somerville +Retinol Firming Eye Cream), says Dr. Zeichner. “It tightens everything like Spanx.” And if you still find that puffiness is a chronic every-morning issue, elevate your head with an extra pillow at night, says Dr Lee; fluids won’t build up as much.
Redness or Broken Capillaries
The cause: Broken capillaries are the sad souvenir of summertime skin damage from UV rays. “Once the tan fades, they’re what’s left over,” says Dr. Zeichner. And allover redness can happen when you experience extreme sudden temperature changes (common in winter when it’s 20 degrees outside and 75 degrees inside), or when you drink hot beverages or alcohol.
The solution: First, the bad news: “Once a capillary is broken, it’s broken, and there’s no home remedy to fix it — you need a laser in a dermatologist’s office,” says Dr. Lee. (The laser is quick and costs about $200 for both cheeks, and it can get rid of those spidery red lines in one treatment. Although concealer works fine too!) If generalized redness is your issue, there are a lot of options. Look for formulas that include niacinamide (like Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Cream) or licorice (try First Aid Beauty Anti-Redness Serum), as well as chamomile or feverfew — these all calm redness over time.
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