Ah, winter. If the freezing cold temperatures and harsh winds of the outdoors don't get you, the dry heat and low humidity of the indoors surely will. We're just a few weeks into the season and already it feels like the moisture has been sucked out of every pore in my body, leaving my lips chapped, my nail beds cracked, and my hair a lifeless static-y mess.
Fortunately, there are strategies we can all follow to reverse and even prevent this damage. Here's how to protect your hair and skin from head to toe from harsh winter weather.
Dry, itchy skin
Winter weather can leave your skin feeling dry, itchy and irritated. Don't suffer with sandpaper-like skin and itchy elbows. Use these tips to get some relief:
- Go for warm, not hot. In the shower that is. While that scalding hot water might feel good for a minute, it can irritate your already-sensitive skin.
- Choose gentle cleansers. Look for products that are fragrance-free. Use the minimal amount to get rid of dirt and oil.
- Moisturize. Apply a thick moisturizer immediately after showering and every time you wash your hands.
- Block the rays. The sun's rays can be as damaging to skin in the winter as they are in the summer. Get in the habit of using sunscreen year-round to prevent dry skin, wrinkles and roughness.
- Cover up. Cover as much skin as possible when you go outdoors.
- Humidify. Indoor heat feels nice but it's also very drying. Use a humidifier in your bedroom so that your skin can replenish lost moisture overnight.
If your lips feel like a chapped mess, you can reverse the damage and prevent future chapping with these tips:
- Don't lick! It will feel better for one second and then worse for the rest of the day. Repeated licking removes your skin's natural lipids, leaving them feeling dry and irritated — which, of course, makes you want to give them another lick. You may not even realize you're doing it, but if your lips are chapped, this might be the cause.
- Choose a gentle balm. Lip balm should feel good on your lips, says the American Academy of Dermatology. If your balm stings or feels tingly, it may be doing more harm than good. Look for a balm that's free of fragrance, alcohol and flavor.
- Heal while you rest. Before you hit the hay, use your toothbrush to gently slough off dead skin cells on your lips and then immediately follow up with a thick moisturizer. Keep it on all night so that it can heal your smoochers while your rest.
Dry and lifeless hair
What's worse: hat-head or brittle hair that has been wind-whipped by the winter weather? If you're not careful, winter can feel like a season-long bad hair day. Here's how to keep your locks looking lustrous all winter long:
- Moisturize according to hair type. Those with thick and/or curly hair can use olive oil or a leave-in conditioning treatment to replenish the hair's moisture. But this might be too heavy for folks with thin, flyaway locks. If that's you, stick to using a daily conditioner after each wash followed by a light leave-in spray conditioner.
- Steer clear of the roots. The oils your hair does have are most plentiful near the roots. So when you apply conditioners, avoiding rubbing them into your scalp where they might make hair appear greasy.
- Zap the static. Reduce static by brushing hair with a natural boar bristle brush with a wooden handle.
- Put a lid on it. Ice, snow, cold temperatures and wind wreak havoc on your hair, but who wants to walk around all day with dreaded hat-head? Keep your hair covered and protect your 'do by covering hair with a silk scarf underneath your hat.
- Give up alcohol. Styling products that contain alcohol can be very drying to hair. Look for gels, creams and sprays that contain gentler ingredients.
Of all of the parts of your body, your hands probably see the harshest conditions, especially during the winter months, and your skin and nails can pay the price. Pamper your hands and reverse winter damage with these ideas:
- Glove up. Not just when you are outdoors, although that's essential, but also whenever your hands get wet, such as when you're washing dishes or cleaning around the house.
- Lube up. Apply a thick, non-greasy moisturizer throughout the day, especially after you wash your hands.
- Give it a little grease. At night, rub cuticle oil (olive oil works well here) into your nail beds to soften cuticles and prevent cracks and splits.