Snow is falling, hot chocolate is flowing...and your nose is running faster than the Hoover Dam. Having a cold is never any fun, but the worst part may be the damage that's done to your nose. By day two of the sniffles, your nose is probably as bright and red as Rudolph's and rubbed raw from tissues. After a few days, that skin becomes dry, chapped and just plain painful.
When the temperatures drop, the air becomes dry and harsh on skin, especially if it's windy. This cold, dry air is particularly hard on the delicate skin around the nose (remember the skin on your face is thinner than the rest of the body). It draws much-needed moisture from the skin and breaks down the skin's natural protective barrier. Without good moisturizing habits, the skin then dries and cracks, and eventually, starts to flake.
You may be tempted to peel, pick, or exfoliate the dry skin around your nose, but dermatologists agree that this is not the best strategy. "If you peel off the outer layers, the raw, irritated skin underneath may be exposed," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. This could lead to infection and may even make the healing process take longer.
Instead of removing the chapped skin, it's best to be proactive and maintain the integrity of the skin barrier by using lots of moisturizer around the nose. If you have normal to dry skin, go for moisturizers that contain petroleum jelly and mineral oils. These types of salves are occlusive, meaning that they lock moisture into the skin and prevent it from evaporating. Folks with oily skin would be better off using a noncomedogenic moisturizer, which won't clog pores. It's also a good idea to temporarily take a break from acne medications and retinol creams, as these can dry out skin.
In general, it's best to avoid washing your face with hot water or taking a steaming hot shower since the hot temperatures will only irritate the skin further. Instead, use lukewarm water to cleanse your face and moisture immediately afterwards. When it comes to tissues, don't skimp: Spring for those infused with lotion. They may be pricier, but it's a small price to pay to keep your skin smooth and pain-free.
- Zeichner, Joshua, M.D. Personal correspondence.