How to Find the Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin During Winter Months

November 16, 2017

As the weather gets colder outside and the heaters fire up inside, everything gets drier. Moisture is pulled from the air and also from your skin, leaving it dry, red and cracked.

As the temperatures change, your daily moisturizer and skin care habits may also need adjusting. Moisturizers are a great way to prevent or treat dry skin during the harsh winter months, but how do you find the best moisturizer for your dry skin?

How Moisturizer Works

“Even if your skin isn’t naturally dry during the rest of the year, winter weather is less humid than in the summer and it can strip natural moisture from the skin,” says Dr. Deborah Ohlhausen of U.S. Dermatology Partners Shoal Creek. “Cooler temperatures can cause the skin to become cracked and itchy, and eczema and other skin conditions can also worsen during this time of the year.”

In general, moisturizers act as a barrier, holding moisture in and hydrating the skin’s outer layers. They can also smoothe the skin’s surface. Using a daily moisturizer during the winter that is more nourishing than your usual moisturizer can help rehydrate and soothe your skin.

Most moisturizers are water-based, making them easy to apply. Others are oil-based, which can help your skin retain even more moisture. All lotions and creams also typically contain various emollients and humectants. Emollients help smoothe the skin, while humectants draw moisture from the air to add hydration. Together, they make the outer layers of the skin feel softer.

What is the best moisturizer for dry skin?

“With thousands of moisturizers and creams on the market, it’s important to read ingredient labels and choose a product that’s right for your skin type and age,” says Dr. Ohlhausen. “The right moisturizer can help protect your skin from dry winter air, while also rehydrating skin and making it look and feel smoother and healthier.”

So, which moisturizer is right for you?

Oily Skin – Even if you have oily skin, you still need a good daily moisturizer. Dry, flaky skin can lead to an excess of dead skin cells that can clog pores and ultimately cause acne to develop or worsen. Because oily skin is more prone to acne, water-based, non-comedogenic moisturizers (those that won’t clog your pores) are the best choice. Choose a lighter, hydrating lotion over thicker, more intense creams that can irritate skin and contribute to acne.

Dry Skin — Dry skin needs a heavier, oil-based moisturizer to rehydrate the skin. If your skin is extremely dry, petroleum-based products such as Vaseline, Aquaphor and Eucerin last even longer than crème moisturizers and will keep water from evaporating from your skin. Though these products can be too heavy and shiny to use during the day under make-up, they are excellent moisturizers to use at night.

Normal Skin — skin that is not overly dry or oily — generally has a natural moisture balance, but it’s still vulnerable to harsh winter conditions. A light, water-based moisturizer is a good way to prevent skin from becoming too dry or greasy. Lotions with 5% to 10% Cyclomethicone — a clear, alcohol-free organic compound — are a good choice.

Sensitive Skin — If you have sensitive skin, winter can be an especially difficult time. Colder, dryer weather works against your skin, making existing skin conditions and irritations even worse. Choose a moisturizer that also contains soothing ingredients such as aloe or chamomile and stay away from harsh fragrances and dyes, which can further irritate your skin.

Aging Skin — Mature skin is naturally drier, made worse by the dry winter air. Oil-based moisturizers with a petroleum base are the best choice for aging skin. Those with added antioxidants or alpha hydroxyl acids (natural acids found in foods such as citrus fruits and sugar cane) also help remove the top layer of dead skin cells and hold in the skin’s moisture, improving the overall texture of the skin.

Other Ways to Protect Your Skin

In addition to applying a good daily moisturizer, there are other steps you can take to protect your skin during colder temperatures.

Simple things like bathing in water that’s warm (not hot) helps retain the skin’s moisture, as does using a mild soap. Humidifiers can also help add moisture to the air and your skin, and wearing gloves and scarves while outside can help to protect your skin from the harsh elements.

Winter is also cold and flu season, which means more hand washing. This is another contributor to dry, cracked skin. Thick moisturizing creams can help build a protective barrier to retain moisture. And don’t forget to moisturize your feet and elbows! Skin in these areas is thinner and loses moisture even faster than the skin on your face and hands.

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