8 Steps to Flawless Winter Skin
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8 Steps to Flawless Winter Skin

Save the cracked and dry skin for the Geico lizard. This season's best fixes are affordable and simple -- and they'll keep you smooth until spring.

Winter Skin Made Easy

1. Go richer.

The light formula that got you through the summer and fall won't protect you this season. Switch to a heavier cream that lists water as the first ingredient to instantly hydrate. Look for humectants (such as hyaluronic acid and honey), which continue to moisturize all day, and shea butter, dimethicone, or petroleum jelly to prevent moisture from evaporating, says Jennifer Linder, MD, a dermatologist in Scottsdale, Arizona. Try Jergens Shea Butter Cream, $7.49, drugstores; St. Ives Oatmeal & Shea Butter Body Moisturizer, $4.99, drugstores.

2. Take a cool shower.

Hot water washes away your body's natural lipids, which keep skin hydrated, says Jody A. Levine, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Her tips: Hit the showers once a day, use tepid water, suds up with a mild cleanser that won't further strip the moisture from your skin, and moisturize your body within two minutes of getting out. Try Dove Beauty Bar, $3.49 for two bars, cvs.com; Kiehl's Creme de Corps Nurturing Body Washing Cream, $17.50, kiehls.com.

3. Exfoliate dull, rough spots.

Dead skin cells on your body naturally flake away -- unless skin is dry. Dry skin becomes resistant to shedding, so you end up with pale, patchy areas, says David Bank, MD, founder and director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic, and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, New York. He recommends exfoliating once a week with a shower pouf or gentle scrub to promote healthy skin turnover. But don't overdo it. Exfoliating too frequently can irritate dry, sensitive skin. Try Neutrogena Energizing Sugar Body Scrub, $10.97, drugstore.com.

4. Stop scratching!

Don't give in to the itch of dry skin, says Dr. Levine. Scratching causes irritation, which then causes the skin to itch more, leading to an endless itch-scratch cycle. When you feel the need to use your nails, slather on a thick cream or ointment instead. Try Eucerin Original Moisturizing Creme, $7.99 for four ounces, drugstore.com, for body; and Darphin Aromatic Renewing Balm, $75, darphin.com, for face. If you're still itchy, apply a hydrocortisone cream, like Cortaid Advanced 12-Hour Anti Itch Cream, $9.99, drugstores, to reduce inflammation.

5. Eat some fat.

Avoiding it altogether is not healthy and it can dry out your skin. Steer clear of saturated fats and go for foods high in good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and walnuts, and monounsaturated fats, like olive oil and avocados, which improve skin hydration, says Dr. Bank.

6. Get more ZZZs.

They don't call it "beauty sleep" for nothing! Skin repairs itself, healing dryness as you snooze. Another reason to hit the hay: Your moisturizer will penetrate more deeply. Body rhythms cause your core temperature to rise slightly in the middle of the night, which relaxes pores and allows lotions to work better, says Dr. Bank. A good cream to slather on before bed: Aveeno Intense Relief Overnight Cream, $7.99, drugstores.

7. Treat hands and feet.

When the temperature drops, your body tries to save energy by slowing circulation to these areas. Give hands and feet a boost by applying a rich moisturizer and then putting on socks and gloves. For hands, try Ahava Mineral Hand Cream, $17, ahavaus.com. And for feet, opt for a moisturizing foot ointment, which hydrates and gently exfoliates rough heels, says Michael H. Golf, a podiatrist in Austin, Texas. He recommends Kerasal One Step Exfoliating Moisturizer Therapy, $9.99, drugstores.

8. Use sunscreen!

It may not be beach weather, but don't skip the sunscreen. The sun's rays are just as damaging in the winter, says Dr. Levine. Look for an SPF with physical blocking agents such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which protect against both UVA (the rays that cause wrinkles) and UVB (the ones that lead to burns). Try Clinique City Block Sheer Daily Face Protector SPF 25, $16.50, clinique.com.

Smooth-Skin Secrets from Top Winter Athletes

These three women make a living braving the elements. Here, how they keep their skin soft and smooth.

Cover up like an ice climber!

"On below-zero days, I protect my face from chapping winds with a ski mask and the Super Salve Company Calendula Salve." [$11.50 for 4 ounces, supersalve.com]
-- Heather Szundy, 30, ice climber and owner of the Ascending Path climbing guide service in Anchorage, Alaska.

Moisturize like a skier!

"Skiing in high elevations, like those in Colorado, always makes my skin dry. So I slather on moisturizer at least three times a day."
-- Kristi Leskinen, 27, professional skier and Action Sports Award's Skier of the Year in 2006.

Protect like a snowboarder!

"I'm young, but I can already see the effects of the sun on my skin. Since UV rays reflect off the snow, I make sure to always use sunscreen."
-- Anne-Flore Marxer, 24, professional snowboarder and the 2005 TransWorld Rookie of the Year.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, February 2008.