It’s nearly March but with the grumpy groundhog, erratic weather and visions of Olympians snug in their Ralph Lauren parkas it seems winter is never-ending. We’ve been amping up our moisturizer, lip balm, body lotion and hand cream for months now. So how come our hands and lips are dry as croutons, our legs flaky as chalk dust and our hair crunchy as tea leaves? Let’s step up to the challenge. Here are 10 ways to beat the big chill:
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PHOTO BY: Target; Walgreens; Target
1. Treat dry skin and dehydration
You’d think experienced folks like us would have cold-weather skin solutions down to a tee, right? Lower thermostat, gloves, scarf, face mask and, oh yeah … moisturizer. But that’s where we get it wrong. Mature skin has two separate winter situations: Dry skin, which lacks oil, is age-related and will stick around for constant care; dehydrated skin can be temporary since it’s due to lack of water, poor diet (especially too much alcohol or caffeine) and climate extremes such as icy outdoors/sweaty indoors. You may very well have both. The main solution is to choose a moisturizer with some combination of humectants (hyaluronic acid, glycerin, honey, aloe vera) that bind water to the skin, and emollients (butters, oils, lipids, vitamin E) to lubricate and soften and, together with occlusives (petrolatum, mineral oil, lanolin, silicone, waxes and ceramides), seal the uppermost skin layer and prevent moisture loss. Good choices include fragrance-free creams like e.l.f. Holy Hydration! Face Cream Fragrance Free ($13, target.com), Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream ($15, target.com) and La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer ($20, walgreens.com).
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PHOTO BY: Nordstrom; Target; Ulta Beauty (2)
2. Buff dry skin, head to toe
If the previous tip has a hitch, this is it. No matter how many luscious creams you lavish on desert-dry skin it’ll stay that way without some gentle exfoliation. Here’s why: Dead cells continue to build up on the surface of your skin thanks to an age-related slowdown in cell renewal and keep it from absorbing and benefiting from all those do-good ingredients you apply. Take it easy though. At 50 our skin is thinner, parched and now being stressed out by winter temperatures and wind. Try a light buff with a warm, wet washcloth or a mild facial scrub like Lancôme Exfoliating Rose Sugar Scrub ($28, nordstrom.com) and one for the body like OGX Smoothing + Coconut Coffee Exfoliating Body Scrub ($7, target.com). Keep the “scrubbing” gentle. Those with keratosis pilaris — the pesky but harmless tiny rough bumps on the upper arms or thighs caused by a buildup of keratin common in winter — can treat it with a moisturizing alpha hydroxy acid scrub like Peach & Lily KP Bump Boss Microderm Body Scrub ($28, ulta.com) or First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub ($30, ulta.com).
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty (3)
3. Deal with dry, itchy scalp
Having a dry, irritated or even flaky scalp is normal in winter when it’s cold and drier. But is it dry scalp or dandruff? See your dermatologist for persistent shedding and itching, but know that seasonal dry scalp is also magnified by excessive washing and heat styling and styling product buildup — especially dry shampoo use. Dandruff is caused by an overgrowth of fungus or yeast and often features larger, more oily flakes. Before you hit the doctor’s office, try switching to a gentle sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner or, if you suspect dandruff, a medicated duo with zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid, ketoconazole or selenium sulfide. Dry heads can also benefit from a soothing pre-shampoo treatment or scrub like SexyHair’s Calm Clear the Hair Soothing Scalp Treatment ($28, ulta.com) with macadamia and avocado oils or Head & Shoulders Supreme Exfoliating Scalp Scrub ($10, ulta.com) with argan oil, or a post-shampoo rinse-out mask like the Kristen Ess Weightless Hydration Daily Scalp + Hair Mask ($14, ulta.com) with calming almond oil and mango seed butter.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); Ulta Beauty
4. Modify your bath and shower routine
Relaxing in a steamy tub or toasty shower is a spa-like cold-weather perk. Though dermatologists suggest brief bathing and lukewarm water who honestly does that? A more realistic way to counteract the drying effects of hot water is to use a hydrating body-wash like Olay Ultra Moisture Shea Butter Body Wash with pump ($9, target.com) and Dove Sensitive Skin Hypoallergenic and Sulfate-Free Body Wash ($10, target.com), or soak in a skin smoothing oil like L’Occitane Almond Shower Oil ($25, ulta.com). But there’s a catch. Always apply moisturizer immediately to damp, freshly washed skin so any creams, lotions or oils you apply next are readily absorbed. If you wait 10 minutes, you’ve missed the benefit window.
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PHOTO BY: Amazon (2); Ulta Beauty
5. Try a humidifier at night or when working from home
Humidifiers add moisture to the air and can be an efficient ally for counteracting dry and dehydrated skin and brittle hair. While they’ve picked up a bad rep for growing harmful mold and bacteria, that can easily be solved with regular cleanings with soap and water or white vinegar and daily replacement of water (stagnant water is a source of contamination). New high-tech models like the Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier ($40, amazon.com) or portable mini-size Hey Dewy Wireless Facial Humidifier ($70, amazon.com) are cold- rather than warm-air misters, easier to use and clean and they are quiet so you can snooze or work in peace. DIY spray mists like the Mario Badescu Facial Spray With Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater ($12, ulta.com) are a simple water-boosting option, too. Stick to hydrating formulas with soothers like aloe and glycerin since some others are setting sprays or designed for acne-prone skin. The big must-do? Spray away, but lock in the moisture with a layer of moisturizer.
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PHOTO BY: Banana Republic; Ulta Beauty (2); Amazon
6. Scratch itchy sweater skin
Even the thought of itchy scarves and sweaters makes our skin crawl. Though the usual suspects are dyes or cleaning products, don’t rule out soft synthetic blends of acrylic or rayon or even fine merino wool or cashmere. It depends on the fibers and your sensitivity level. Layer a skin-tone camisole like the Banana Republic True Hues V-Neck Camisole ($10, bananarepublic.gap.com), which comes in 11 shades, under V-necks, fine-gauge knits and pale sweaters; slide a bodysuit like the Mangopop Women’s Crew Neck Bodysuit in B Long Sleeve Black ($19, amazon.com) under thicker, chunkier ones. And a final solution? Treat sensitive skin bothered by sweater-induced flares (including eczema, rosacea and psoriasis) to soothing creams with colloidal oatmeal like First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream ($38, ulta.com) or CeraVe Eczema Relief Creamy Oil ($19, ulta.com) to relieve the itch and redness ASAP.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); Ulta Beauty (2)
7. Add some healthy oils inside and out
Some of us are fat- and breakout-conscious and tend to avoid oils. But they’re just what we need for radiant skin and glossy hair. Add some omega-3-rich walnuts, avocados and good old olive oil to your diet and give body, hair and face oils a try, too. Surprisingly non-greasy they work into everyday routines and restore a healthy glow. Try patting a face oil like Burt’s Bees Complete Nourishment Facial Oil ($22, target.com) or Pacifica Vegan Ceramide Facial Oil ($15, target.com) over moisturizer on extra-dry spots or overnight as a stand-alone; treat post-bathing skin with an oil like SheaMoisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Body Oil ($12, ulta.com) or use an oil like Fekkai Shea Butter Intense Oil Face + Body ($28, ulta.com) on crusty elbows, knees and flaky shins, and on frazzled hair and split ends to restore a smooth silky finish.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty (4); Walgreens
8. Try two-step hand and lip care
We still need a daily lip balm and a hand sanitizer/hand-washing routine but intensify the results by doubling up on products. Treat your kisser with a protective SPF 30 lip balm outdoors and a healing ointment indoors so the nourishing oils, vitamin E, shea butter or petrolatum (depending on the formula) can tackle cracks, chapping and severe dryness. Try an affordable duo like Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen Lip Balm SPF 30 ($4, ulta.com) and Lano Coconutter 101 Ointment Multi-Balm ($14, ulta.com). For hands, again, try a non-greasy indoors formula like Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hand Gel Cream ($7, ulta.com) so can use your cell or work on your laptop without smears, and switch to a more deeply emollient night cream like Eczema Honey Oatmeal Hand Cream ($25, ulta.com) or Jergens Ultra Healing Hand & Body Cream Unscented ($9, walgreens.com) to soothe and treat itchy, cracked, reddened paws. And, yes, any creams that specify eczema work for all.
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PHOTO BY: Target (4)
9. Pamper your feet
We know insulated boots help us avoid frostbite and rubber treads minimize slips but bet you didn’t know foot fungus and blisters (those summer concerns) also thrive in winter. Even the coziest shearling boots can rub in all the wrong spots if they are badly fitting or too tight, and fungus loves warm, damp environments like tootsies sweating in thick socks and insulated boots. And how about cracked heels or yellowed toenails from constant coats of dark polish? Three things belong on your to-do list: Replace any boots that are cramming your bunions, corns and hammertoes and causing heel discomfort; remove wet socks and shoes ASAP, even those labeled waterproof; and take a polish break till spring. Then pamper callused feet and heels with an overnight DIY mask. Just slather clean feet with any heavy balm or ointment, like Gold Bond Ultimate Softening Foot Cream ($6, target.com), Vaseline Deep Moisture Vitamin E Petroleum Jelly Cream ($4, target.com) or Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($12, target.com), wrap them in plastic wrap and slip into a pair of soft, clean socks so they can bake till morning.
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PHOTO BY: Walgreens; Target; Sephora
10. Continue to make sunscreen a priority
When the temperature drops, some of us skip the sunscreen. I know you’ve heard this before from me, but UV damage is a cumulative 365-days-a-year deal, not a summer fling. Whether you’re running errands, driving or sitting in front of a window to read, it all adds up to sun damage and even skin cancer. Do your face a favor and choose sunscreens that are hydrating enough for mature skin, like Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Face Sunscreen SPF 50 ($12, walgreens.com) or Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Weightless Face Sunscreen ($11, target.com). You can also rely on a dual high-SPF tinted moisturizer like Saie Slip Tint Dewy Tinted Moisturizer SPF 35 Sunscreen ($32, sephora.com) for makeup with built-in protection since all a touchup requires is another swipe of makeup or a topcoat of sunscreen.
Lois Joy Johnson is a beauty and style editor who focuses on women 50 and older. She was the beauty and style editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and a founding editor of More magazine. She has written three books: The Makeup Wakeup, The Wardrobe Wakeup and The Woman's Wakeup.
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