This isn't our first rodeo. At 50-plus we've got the cold weather drill down. Moisturizer and lip balm? Yes! Body lotion? Sure! Hand cream and hair mask? Yup! And yet every year when the temperature goes down we emerge from our puffers and scarves with a howl. Why the dull, lined, blotchy skin, chapped lips and bone-dry hair? We've been doing everything right, right? The truth is, we need more than the same old TLC to avoid those perennial problems. Here are 10 fixes for all:
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PHOTO BY: Robert Kamau/GC Images; David Livingston/Getty Images; Raymond Hall/GC Images
1. Protect your hair. C'mon, wear the hat! Winter means you can relax about frizz and humidity (if that's your issue) but better watch out for dry air indoors and out whether your locks are curly or straight. All that static we used to worry about isn't so much a concern now, thanks to our due diligence with conditioners, masks and styling creams. However, if you don't want your blowout going flat under that knit beanie or still cringe at flyaways, try layering a silk scarf or a dryer sheet under your hat to keep all intact. FYI: Using a hair mask once a week is still smart to boost protection, but twice weekly is even better.
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PHOTO BY: Marc Piasecki/GC Images; Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images; Phillip Faraone/WireImage
2. Double down on moisturizer. Our grownup skin has been around the block. It's thinner, drier, more prone to discoloration even before this seasonal shift. If your face is feeling tight, super sensitive or dry as the desert, or your body is feeling itchy and flaking up the insides of black tees and leggings, it is sending you a signal. The trusty moisturizers and lotions that got you through balmier days won't cut it for the 24/7 contrast of chilly and windy outdoors and steamy indoors. Step it up with thicker creams that have the power to tackle moisture-starved skin head to toe. After all: Your face isn't wearing a fake fur or down coat for protection.
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PHOTO BY: Pond's; No7; Ulta Beauty
3. Stick to balanced, supercharged formulas. The best recipe for winter skin is a combination of humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin to attract moisture and occlusive ingredients like ceramides and oils that lock it in. You'll find that balance in a range of modern moisturizers — like It Cosmetics Confidence In A Cream Hydrating Moisturizer ($49, ulta.com), Pond's Dry Skin Cream ($7, cvs.com) or No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Day Cream SPF 30 ($25, target.com). The rest of the ingredient menu is the gravy that makes mature skin look brighter and feel comfy again.
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PHOTO BY: CeraVe; Olay; L'Oreal Paris
4. Layer serums over creams to amp things up. Layering a concentrated hydrating serum — like CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Face Serum for Normal to Dry Skin ($19, cvs.com), Olay Deep Hydration Serum with Vitamin B3+ Hyaluronic Acid ($38, cvs.com) or L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum ($30, cvs.com) — under your new creamier moisturizer raises the bar. Just don't make the common mistake of using serum alone and skipping the cream. You still need the latter to seal in the serum and make it more effective (and for all the other do-good ingredients). On the other hand, you can pat a skin treatment oil lightly over moisturizer in areas where skin is extra dry or just to increase radiance and a supple, smooth finish.
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PHOTO BY: Curél; Aveeno; First Aid Beauty; Cetaphil
5. Go unscented to stay de-stressed. Richer cream doesn't mean greasy anymore, so don't let the idea of luxuriously dense creams scare you. They're designed to be quick absorbing but potent even when layered. However, if your grownup skin is sensitive or you're still worried about breakouts, your best bets are unscented formulas — like Curél Intensive Moisture Facial Cream ($30, ulta.com) or First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream ($34, ulta.com) for the face; and Aveeno Skin Relief Moisture Repair Cream ($15, cvs.com) or Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream for Dry, Sensitive Skin ($14, riteaid.com) for the body.
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6. Change your daily routine. A long, toasty shower feels good but strips your skin and hair of healthy fats and oils, so limit hot showers to five minutes or go lukewarm. Also, no more waiting an hour to load on the moisturizer. For true absorption, apply cream to skin that's freshly washed, bathed or showered (but blotted) and damp. A steamy bathroom is your friend here — that moist, heated environment gives you extra minutes to gently massage on moisturizer for an extra circulation boost and glow. If you're a bath fan, apply a hair mask and light body oil before stepping into the tub. That same saunalike atmosphere will help the mask penetrate, and the oil will hydrate and protect your skin's barrier layer as you soak.
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PHOTO BY: Aveeno (2); OGX (2); Yes To; Nexxus
7. Detox your dry scalp. We all know dialing down shampoo frequency (and its partner in crime, heat styling) is the route to healthier hair. But sometimes the arrival of a dry itchy scalp and flakes sends us running for the DIY medicated dandruff shampoo and stepping up the suds. Head to a dermatologist to diagnose persistent or severe symptoms that could be fungal or bacterial, of course, but don't panic. For everyday dry scalp, try switching to a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner — like Aveeno Scalp Soothing Oat Milk Blend Shampoo ($7, target.com) and Conditioner ($7, target.com) or OGX Extra Strength Refreshing Scalp + Tea Tree Mint Shampoo ($7, target.com) and Conditioner ($7, target.com) — to avoid stripping your hair of natural oils. Get into a preshampoo detoxing scalp treatment — like Yes to Tea Tree Soothing Scalp Treatment ($8, target.com) or Nexxus Clean & Pure Scalp Scrub ($15, target.com) — designed to gently remove buildup from styling products and scalp debris. Be sure to gently massage your scalp as you wash and condition, and use a wide-tooth comb in the shower to detangle (work from ends up toward roots in increments) before stepping out.
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PHOTO BY: JR Watkins; Neutrogena; Soap & Glory
8. You need hand sanitizer and a hand cream. We all spend this cold and flu season walking around with hand sanitizer in every bag and pocket. The good news: A product that's 60 percent alcohol can kill bacteria and viruses. The bad news: It's also drying our already dry paws (and cuticles). What's the point of all our manicures, stacked rings and bracelets if we're feeling hand shame? Counteract your sanitizer usage with a hand cream that contains ingredients like hydrating nut butters and oils or hyaluronic acid — like Soap & Glory Hand Food Hand Cream ($7, target.com), Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Hand Cream with Hyaluronic Acid ($5, riteaid.com) or JR Watkins Naturals Shea Butter Hand Cream ($6, riteaid.com). And wear your tech-friendly gloves outdoors — texting is no excuse to leave those fingers out in the cold.
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PHOTO BY: Mario Badescu; Kiehl's; Milani; Sun Bum
9. Use an SPF lip balm and an ointment. You can't just apply a cherry-flavored balm and call it a day. Lips are very vulnerable to moisture loss, and the trick is to be consistent with a two-step plan. Heal and soothe dryness, cracks and flakes during indoor hours with an ointment or balm that contains vitamin E, nourishing oils or shea butter — like Mario Badescu Rose Lip Balm ($8, ulta.com) or Milani Rose Butter Lip Mask ($10, ulta.com). Then protect your kisser outdoors with a high SPF balm — like Kiehl's Butterstick Lip Treatment SPF 30 ($24, ulta.com) or Sun Bum Sunscreen Lip Balm SPF 30 ($4, ulta.com) — that has occlusive ingredients such as beeswax, petrolatum or lanolin along with more butters and plant and nut oils to seal in moisture. Try to break the licking cycle, too. Dessertlike lip balms with a fruit-smoothie taste are delicious — but not if you're tempted to lick your lips, which exacerbates chapping.
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PHOTO BY: Nancy Rivera/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images; Olay; Neutrogena; Coppertone; Supergoop!
10. Keep wearing sunscreen. You're not off the hook just because it's cold, gray or stormy. A moisturizing sunscreen — like Neutrogena Bright Boost Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 30 ($20, target.com), Olay Sun Face Sunscreen + Makeup Primer SPF 35 ($20, riteaid.com) or Coppertone Glow with Shimmer Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 ($9, target.com) — works under makeup to keep your skin protected from UV rays (and they're out there 365 days a year) when you're driving, running errands or sitting at a cafe sipping hot chocolate. For the lazies in our crowd, try a portable mineral powder sunscreen like Supergoop! Invincible Setting Powder SPF 45 ($30, sephora.com) as a final makeup step or as a touch-up. And don't forget snow reflects UV rays like a mirror, intensifying their effect. Shield your eyes with UV-protective sunglasses. You don't want to regret scrimping later.