Red is the color of holly berries and Santa's festive suit. White is the color of the jolly old man's beard and new-fallen snow. And together, white and red are the colors of sensitive skin prone to becoming dry and chapped in chilly air. Kind of kills the spirit of the season, doesn't it? But drier and cooler air need not have that effect if you make a few adjustments to your daily skin care routines.
Start with your cleaning habits. It's probably not that you're washing too little but too much. Bathing strips away the natural oils produced by your skin. Naturally, you have to stay clean but some dermatologists recommend that you take as few as two or three showers a week when it's cold outside. Those showers or baths should not be scalding hot. The more heat, the more moisture is drawn from your skin. When it's time to dry off, make sure you simply pat dry and avoid rough back and forth motions, which can damage healthy, new skin cells.
The soap that you choose – whether it be in the bath, shower or simply for cleaning your face before bedtime – can make a big difference in your skin's feel and appearance. Check the ingredients; soaps with low alkali content aren't nearly as irritating as those full of alcohol, antibacterial agents and excessive fragrances. You might even want to consider a soap that isn't technically soap at all. Syndets, as they're commonly called, are synthetic detergents. Look for products labeled "soap-free" or "non-alkaline" cleansers. Cetaphil, moisturizing bars and liquid cleansers rank high in dermatological testing on sensitive skin.
Be aware that the latest and greatest moisturizers aren't necessarily good for your skin type. Petroleum jelly has been in use as a moisturizer for more than 150 years, and it's still a reliable treatment that many dermatologists recommend for patients whose skin has a tendency to become inflamed. Fragrance-free baby oil or pure mineral oil works on an infant's bottom and it's likely all you need for your dry and cracked elbows and hands. But that doesn't mean it's the best moisturizer for your face. If your face has a tendency to become oily and acne-prone, steer clear of oil-based moisturizers.
Finally, consider your environment. You can't change the conditions outdoors but you can make adjustments in your home. A humidifier can go a long way toward restoring the moisture that was drawn from your skin by the cold outdoor air. Humidifiers come in many shapes and sizes. Some are actually built into the heating and cooling systems of buildings and personal properties. Others plug into the wall and circulate moisture from evaporating water. Be advised; the water from the plug-in variety of humidifiers needs to be changed regularly or else you'll wind up circulating bacteria and fungi.
The fall and winter months need not be full of cracking and drying, irritation and inflammation of the skin. With a few tweaks to your habits and the products in your home, your skin will have a vibrant hue.