Thursday, August 31, 2000

Don't give cold shoulder to winter skin care

Make moisturizer and sunscreen part of your survival kit

By Shauna Scott Rhone
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The largest organ on the human body is the most neglected.

        Taking care of your skin should be a daily concern. Just as summer's heat keeps the skin's sweat glands on overdrive, winter's cold can make the skin rival a snowy landscape — dry and flaky.

        Most of us are well aware of what summer sun does to skin, but some of us forget the toll winter can take on our face, arms and legs.

        “Winter's harsh weather can be the undoing of any skin type,” Peggy Wynne Borgman says in her book, Four Seasons of Inner and Outer Beauty (Broadway Books; $17.95). “The skin's sensitivity increases with dryness, and even a familiar moisturizer, when used to treat chapped, windburned or severely dry skin, can feel irritating rather than soothing.”

        Although it's still hot in the Tristate, now's the time to start preparing your skin for a change in the weather.

        “My skin gets drier during winter,” says Angela Brown of Silverton. “I have to use a heavier moisturizer that's not so greasy, like Palmer's cocoa butter.”

        The most important part of cold-weather skin care is keeping the whole body hydrated. With drier skin, removing the sloughed-off layer is important to keep the skin from looking dull. Using soap or liquid body baths with moisturizers is crucial. Avoid taking very hot showers; they promote dry skin.

  Those “skin extensions,” the hair and nails, need as much hydration as the rest of you. Cold weather can turn both brittle.
  “It's very important to condition the hair at least two or three times a week,” says Ms. Dinkel. “Winter can dry your scalp, too, which causes hair breakage. Girls who wear ponytails or knit caps should condition their hair for the same reason.
  “People are more concerned with viruses in the winter so they carry around those hand sanitizers,” she says. “While they're good to use, you have to follow up with a good hand lotion. Those sanitizers contain alcohol and will dry your skin and nails. Use hand lotion for your hands and cuticle oil to keep nails healthy.”
        Finish off a shower or bath with a soothing application of body lotion or oil to seal in moisture and keep skin soft. And remember to massage lots of moisturizer into the neck and upper chest areas. Winter means more clothing in those areas, increasing the chances of chafing.

        Try a hydrating mask to replenish moisture and follow up with a no-alcohol toner. Look for a toner with witch hazel, glycerin or sorbitol. Some toning lotions contain plant oils but test them in the store first, if possible, for allergic reactions.

        Using a moisturizer helps prevent drying, flaking and tearing of the skin. For daytime use, the best moisturizers have a sunscreen of at least SPF 8-15. Use the higher sunscreen when it's snowing. When the sun shines on snow crystals, the refraction throws off even stronger doses of the sun's UVA and UVB rays.

        Treatment for oily skin is slightly different.

        “Some people with oily skin can still get flakes of skin,” says Montgomery dermatologist Dr. Pranav Sheth. “Oily skin treatment does not correlate with dry skin. For example, if you see a dry, cracked riverbed, you can see the cracks in the earth. If you just throw oil on it, you don't have a wet riverbed. You have an oily riverbed. That's the same effect that oily skin has” — though the skin surface is oily, it is still susceptible to moisture loss.

        “In the winter, there is a decrease in humidity, causing a moisture vapor loss from the skin,” Dr. Sheth says. “The skin barrier, called the stratum corneum, becomes less effective and the layer's function is reduced. The skin becomes drier and eventually gets micro fissures in that main barrier. Those breaks in the skin let irritants in, which increases sensitivity and causes conditions like eczema.

        “That's why moisturizers are recommended because they temporarily provide a barrier and emollient function to the skin. The type of moisturizer varies according to the skin type. Dry skin needs a heavier moisturizer, while oily skin calls for mild emollient bases and a lighter lotion.”

        No matter the type of skin, replacing the moisture lost in the drier, colder air is crucial to the health of the skin.

        “Moisturize nightly,” says Jeni Lee Dinkel, president of Jeni Lee Cosmetics, based in Crestview Hills. “In winter, skin needs more hydration. I also recommend having a facial done at home or a spa once a month.”

        Ms. Dinkel says women who use alpha-hydroxy products to minimize fine facial lines should continue the regimen during winter.

        “Winter also is the best time to start using a bleaching cream to even out blotches and minor scars from the face and chest or to minimize a pregnancy mask.”

        Also think about changing your makeup for colder months.

        “Look for products that are non-greasy, hydrating and contain sunscreen,” Ms. Dinkel says. “If you use a water-based moisturizer, use it under a cream-based foundation. Regardless of skin type, use a hydrating primer before applying any foundation.”

        Chapped lips and cold sores are painful health concerns during winter. Most lipsticks and glosses today have protective sunscreen to protect and heal.

        Another helpful tool against the cold, cruel winter is not a cosmetic: Wearing sunglasses during winter increases visibility and reduces squinting, which can lead to those fine lines around the eyes.

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