“It’s important to consider the seasons in your skin care routine and make adjustments for the best possible results,” says Dr. Gervaise Gerstner, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai. Gerstner’s advice has appeared in the pages of Allure, Harper’s Bazaar, Self and W magazines. “Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and the first line of protection for all the other organs. Sunlight, changes in weather, and seasonal stress can affect our skin’s health. They’re also factors that make us overlook proper care, so it’s critical you have the right routine in place.”
Gerstner offers her top tips for keeping skin beautiful and healthy this winter, and all year long:
1. Keep your hands off. Your hands can pick up a lot of germs and bacteria during the day that can cause breakouts or even infections, so keep them far away from your face. Also, since winter is often associated with irritating flareups of pimples, rashes and cold sores, it’s important to avoid the urge to pick. Picking can cause inflammation, and with broken or raw skin, further put you at risk for infection, and even cause scarring.
2. Slather on sunscreen. “Even on days it rains or snows, it’s important to wear sunscreen,” Gerstner advises. Your skin is constantly exposed to potentially harmful UVA and UVB rays. Even just walking from your office to the coffee shop on the grayest of days exposes you to possible solar damage, such as wrinkles and even skin cancer.
3. Treat ailments quickly. Common conditions like cold sores can be embarrassing and painful, so treat them right away to find relief. Remedies found at your local drugstore can be effective.
4. Don’t forget your nails and hair. They’re part of your skin too, and often show the most obvious signs of winter’s impact like raw skin and split ends. It’s important to properly moisturize, such as using a leave-in or deep conditioner, or heavier creams on your face and hands. Dr. Gerstner also says that hair loss and brittle nails are two of the most common complaints she hears from her female patients. Taking a daily biotin supplement of 5,000 mcg can help. Limit use of a flat iron to once or twice a week, and avoid excessive hair coloring treatments.
5. Brighten your smile, and use it often. Winter’s weather woes and seasonal stress can make it easy to forget to smile, but nothing makes your face look better than a big grin. Keep your teeth well polished—whitening strips can help—and flash your smile frequently. It can brighten your mood and the moods of others around you.
6. Quit smoking and moderate alcohol use. By now, virtually everyone knows smoking is deadly. But if the health threats of smoking don’t convince you to quit, perhaps an appeal to your vanity will help. Smokers suffer more wrinkles, poorer skin texture and slower wound healing than people who don’t smoke. Alcohol can dehydrate your body, which often shows the next day in parched skin and eyes. It also exacerbates adult acne, called rosacea. When drinking alcohol, alternate with a glass of seltzer.
7. Forego designer brands. Expensive creams leave your wallet lighter and don’t necessarily make your skin look any better than less costly products do. Simple drug store products can work just as well, especially if supplemented with a retinol or glycolic recommendation from your dermatologist. Fancy products often contain essential oils or fragrances that can irritate skin.