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The Definitive Guide to Preventing Dry Skin—From a Top Dermatologist

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NEWSLETTER
SKIN
BY JENNA RENNERT
December 4, 2019
Photographed by Raymond Meier, Vogue, February 2008

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For all of winter’s sweeping seasonal highs (fireside gatherings, snowy walks, and ice-skating in Central Park), there are a few less pleasant side effects to note. Enter the onslaught of dry, itchy skin that’s currently settling in for the long haul. While switching to a good moisturizer at the first sign of chill proves helpful, the drier climate and indoor heat may have already taken a toll. Fortunately, there’s still time to get serious about a daily routine to ensure a hydrated, glowing complexion. Here, with the help of New York City dermatologist Shari Marchbein, M.D., is the definitive guide for preventing, soothing, and dealing with dry skin.

Prep Your Home:
The drier the air, the drier the skin. To maximize the amount of water in the air, Marchbein recommends placing a humidifier in the room where you spend the most time, which, in many cases, is the bedroom. “A cool air humidifier increases the moisture level in the air,” helping skin’s barrier stay hydrated, she says. In addition, be sure the heat is kept on low or at a moderate temperature to avoid extra dryness in the air.

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Change Up Your Diet:
With a direct connection between the gut and skin health, increasing your daily intake of fats may help with dry skin. Marchbein recommends eating a diet rich in walnuts, olive oil, and avocados (but not to sub them for a proper skin-care routine). While that extra glass of full-bodied red wine may seem like a good idea, Marchbein takes a conservative approach. “Don’t overdo it with alcohol, caffeine, and coffee,” she explains, as they are diuretics that will cause dehydration. And, she says, “drink tons of water.”

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Buff Your Skin
No matter how many serums and creams are applied, dry skin will stay dry without some light exfoliation. “Pick up a gentle scrub,” says Marchbein, “something with a mild glycolic or lactic acid to get off the dead skin.” The expert suggests swapping a gentle formula for your regular cleanser two to three times a week. For those with raw or severely dry skin, skip the exfoliator and incorporate a wet washcloth instead for a gentler option. And tailor your Retin-A usage to every other day because, while it’s surely the wrinkle-fighting hero product, it is also a strong exfoliant and “may cause extra dryness during the winter.” Now that the skin is buffed, “[serums and] moisturizers can penetrate and really get to work.”

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Slather on an Antioxidant Serum:
While most summertime products get swapped out come winter, serums are the one exception to that rule. “As long as it’s alcohol-free, an antioxidant serum is perfect for year-round usage,” says Marchbein. No matter the climate, skin “gets attacked by free radicals,” she explains, causing sun spots, the breakdown of collagen, and premature fine lines. To prevent the damage, apply a vitamin C formula as a first layer in the morning, before layering on heavier products. And don’t forget the sunscreen—a daily dose of SPF 30 will keep skin covered, even on cold, cloudy days.

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Switch to a Heavy Face Cream
Perhaps one of the most important and commonly overlooked steps in the dry skin game is changing to a seriously hydrating moisturizer. “Look for creams, rather than lotions, that are made with ceramides and hyaluronic acid,” Marchbein says. Ceramides aid in the prevention of the skin’s barrier, which is “easily broken down during the winter.” For patients with severely chapped faces, pack on a hefty amount of product, she says, morning and night.

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Avoid Harsh Cleansers
Be sure to toss any face washes with drying ingredients, like fragrances or additives, in favor of those with formulated chamomile or oatmeal. “A really gentle cleanser, like Cetaphil, is a great option that won’t strip skin of its natural oils,” which are needed to protect overall moisture, Marchbein says.

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Zero In on a Nighttime Routine
Every night before bed, Marchbein recommends sticking to a routine that will ensure healthy skin come morning. After your face serum and moisturizer, apply a gentle eye cream to the under eyes and lids, like Kiehl’s avocado treatment. For extra protection, coat the area with Aquaphor. “The product will seal in the cream and prevent against redness and eczema,” both of which are common during this time of year.
While the heat from an evening shower may feel phenomenal on a chilly day, Marchbein advises to limit rinse time to five minutes or less and to use warm—not hot—water, which only adds to surface dehydration. And instead of irritating soap bars or harsh body washes, pick up a creamy cleanser, like Dove’s gentle formula. “Within 60 seconds of [stepping out of the shower],” she says, apply a thick body moisturizer. “Look for something with mineral oil, lanolin, or ceramides,” she explains, to help skin hold on to moisture throughout the night.

As a last step, Marchbein urges patients to coat hands with a thick moisturizer, like CeraVe, and dab Aquaphor on cuticles and lips before hitting the sheets. And for those who are feeling overly dry, a hydrating sheet mask may be a good idea once a week at bedtime. “Stay away from anything with charcoal or clay,” she warns, citing calming yet hard-working products should contain plenty of hyaluronic acid. Here’s to healthy, hydrated, and happy skin through spring.

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Topics
Eye Cream
Face Mask
Winter Beauty

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