Tips to keep winter from ruining your skin

WASHINGTON — Winter can be the toughest time of year for your skin.

“Winter does us a double whammy,” says Dr. Howard Brooks, a dermatologist in D.C.

The cold dry air outside combines with the heated dry air inside to rob skin of moisture, he says.

Brooks says the most important thing to do is to slather on a gentle moisturizer that has little or no fragrance. Drug store brands work just fine, as long as they include active ingredients such as ceramides — the latest thing in over-the-counter skin care — or glycerin.

These lotions or creams are essential in winter even for people with acne. Those with breakouts, however, need to be careful to select products that are labeled non-comedogenic (they won’t clog pores).

There’s a difference of opinion over the idea of exfoliating to treat flaking skin. Some skin specialists say gentle exfoliation is OK,  but Brooks tells his patients to skip it, and just treat flaky spots with extra moisturizer.

He also suggests skipping long, hot showers in winter because hot water can dry skin out.

“Patients hate to hear this — especially with the cold weather ahead — but I do recommend a warm to cool shower,” Brooks says.

And one last bit of advice: Before going outside, everyone should apply a facial moisturizer and lip balm with sunscreen, preferably SPF 30 or higher. And make sure it is broad spectrum sunscreen that provides both UVA and UVB protection.

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