The cold, dry winter months are a good time to change your daily skin care regimen. The low humidity dries out skin, and without extra care, this might contribute to premature aging.
"Winter is harsh on skin for many reasons," says Dr. Shirley Madhère, a New York City plastic surgeon with a holistic practice. "We must contend with cold outdoor air, dry air from heaters indoors, friction from rough or irritating fabrics and windburn."
Dr. Madhère offers these simple proactive steps to help maintain healthy, radiant skin during the chilliest months of the year.
• Stay hydrated. Water helps the body flush out toxins that leave skin looking dull. If you're craving hot coffee or tea on a chilly day, be sure to consume lots of water, too, as caffeine and alcohol deplete the body of water.
Moisturize with a cream or oil and then cover up to help prevent dryness -- especially feet and hands, which are prone to itching and cracking. Also try using a humidifier, but avoid hot showers that draw out moisture from the skin.
• Eat a balanced diet. Maintaining healthy, radiant skin starts from within. Consume fewer fats and carbohydrates and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, which are natural antioxidants or anti-aging agents. Foods rich in vitamin C help fight free radicals that break down collagen, a process which causes wrinkles. Foods rich in antioxidants, such as pomegranates, are vital in maintaining healthy skin. Find fun new recipes to incorporate these key foods into your diet.
Foods also can be used externally. A milk or honey and sugar scrub, for example, is an excellent gentle exfoliator to help remove dry dull skin cells.
• Soothe skin the natural way. When temperatures drop, consider switching out lighter facial lotions with a more moisturizing and therapeutic Calendula-based cream. The Calendula officinalis plant, or Garden marigold, has been used topically for generations to heal skin irritations.
"A Calendula cream can provide an all-in-one solution to soothe many everyday skin problems," says Dr. Madhère.
She recommends a line from Boiron, an 80-year old French pharmaceutical company specializing in homeopathic medicines, which includes a cream and a heavier ointment. Calendula Ointment protects and heals rougher patches such as elbows and cracked heels, chapped lips and nasal skin irritations from colds. Both the cream and ointment are free of fragrances, dyes and parabens. To learn more, visit boironcalendula.com.
• Stay active. Increased blood flow during exercise helps nourish skin cells. Sweating also helps flush toxins, helping skin look more radiant. Stay motivated by joining a gym or learning a winter sport. Just be sure to change out of clothes wet from snow or sweat to avoid itching, inflammation and cracking. Although nothing can replace exercise, massages can significantly help circulation, too.
• Don't sweat the small stuff. If you're relaxed and happy on the inside, it will show on the outside. Manage stress this season with activities such as yoga, pilates and meditation.