Myth: You need to ditch your go-to face cream when it’s nippy.
Truth: You don’t have to put your fave formula on ice. Simply winterize it. Unless you live in an extreme climate (say, the North Pole), your regular hydrator should hold up. But give it more oomph by applying a moisturizing serum first. Serums are lightweight, so they won’t change your lotion’s consistency. Plus, they penetrate deeply, delivering ingredients more effectively. Choose one with hyaluronic acid (such as Cygalle Healing Spa Sea Pearl Elixir, $95), which plumps up cells by attracting water. If your complexion is extra arid, add a glycerin-rich overnight cream (we like Roc Multi-Correxion Night Treatment, $25) to prevent dehydration as you snooze, which is when skin is most vulnerable to dryness.
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Myth: You should switch up the color of your base with the seasons.
Truth: You should alter your foundation’s finish with the seasons. Now that you use sunscreen daily (c’mon — you do, don’t you?) and have access to fab self-tanners, it’s likely that your skin tone doesn’t change radically after Labor Day. What may vary is how your makeup interacts with the elements. Case in point: When cold winds blow, you don’t want to smooth on the same matte base you do in August or else your face may appear dull. Instead, shift to a hydrating foundation with a satiny finish, suggests Tim Quinn, a celebrity makeup artist in New York City for Giorgio Armani Beauty. Try formulas with water and glycerin as the main ingredients, such as Maybelline New York Dream Liquid Mousse, $10.
Myth: It’s fine to slack off on sunscreen in winter, when the sun isn’t as strong.
Truth: The sun’s rays are just as insidious when the mercury drops. True, UVB rays are weaker this time of year, but that doesn’t mean you get a pass on protecting yourself. That’s because the glare from snow, buildings and even sidewalks can make shorter-wave UVB rays (the ones that burn) up to 80 percent more intense. Meanwhile, UVAs — which cause wrinkles and skin cancer — remain constant year-round. “When you go outdoors on a rainy, wintry day, you still acquire the same amount of UVA damage that you would on a sunny beach in July,” says Jeannette Graf, M.D., a dermatologist in Great Neck, New York. The bottom line: It’s best to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day of the year, wherever you live.
Myth: Frigid air makes your skin peel like crazy.
Truth: Indoor heat is apt to be the main culprit when your complexion flakes out on you. “People who spend time outdoors in winter aren’t usually the ones with the most severely dehydrated skin,” says Fredric Brandt, M.D., a dermatologist in Miami. “It’s even worse for those who sit indoors all day with the thermostat cranked up high.” That’s because, unlike humid July days, indoor heat tends to be bone-dry, leaving your complexion parched. What helps: If you can, turn down the temperature a few degrees. (It’s healthy for your utility bill and the earth — a win-win!) You can also pump lost moisture back into the air with a humidifier. The ideal place to keep one is in your bedroom; turn it on while you sleep. “During the night, your skin goes into cell-renewal mode,” Dr. Graf says. “That’s a good thing, but the process also speeds up moisture loss.”
Myth: Downing tons of water daily will quench dry skin.
Truth: When it comes to maximizing moisture, nutrients are more key than what you drink. Umpteen visits to the watercooler are overkill, plain and simple. “Chugging water does help maintain skin’s moisture, but sip too much and you’ll only increase the speed with which your body gets rid of all that liquid,” Dr. Brandt explains. (And who wants to make five trips to the bathroom before lunch?) Conversely, getting enough omega-3 fatty acids through a diet rich in salmon and halibut can be helpful in combating dryness. “These fish are packed with alpha-linolenic acid, which lessens inflammation and plays a big role in strengthening the lipid layer that helps skin retain natural oils,” Dr. Graf says.
Myth: The thicker the moisturizer, the more intense the hydration effects.
Truth:Light lotions can be as effective. It’s all about the ingredients. When it’s cold outside, layers of light clothing keep you as warm as one bulky sweater — and they’re more comfy. In the same way, there’s no need to slap on an ultra-thick day cream when lightweight formulas can make skin look vibrant. The difference between the two? Rich creams and butters consist mainly of occlusives (e.g., petrolatum and lanolin), which prevent moisture from evaporating. Lighter lotions, in contrast, rely more on humectants — airy but powerful ingredients that pull moisture into skin. Scan labels for effective ingredients such as hyaluronic or lactic acid (both in Jason Hand & Body Lotion, $8). “Lighter lotions can give you more glow than heavier ones because their humectants regulate hydration in skin’s outer layer,” Dr. Brandt says. “Moisturizers containing alpha hydroxy acids also help break apart connective ‘cement’ between cells so flakes fall away, leaving skin exfoliated and radiant.”
Myth: Shaving too often can leave your legs rashy and red.
Truth: Your razor does more than remove hair — it’s also a great tool for banishing sandpapery skin. “When you shave, you’re sloughing off dry skin in nice, even strips. Do it twice a week, moisturize right after you shower, and you’ll keep legs sleek all season,” confirms Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a dermatologist in Boston. As for smoothing unshavable zones, every other day, use a peel pad with glycolic acid, a heavy-hitting exfoliant. (We like DDF Glycolic 5% Daily Cleansing Pads, $35). Rub on tough spots such as elbows to gently dissolve dead skin.
Myth: Baths trump showers in cold weather. More soaking equals more moisture.
Truth: Hot soaks are a big winter-skin sin. Remember how skin behaves in hot weather? It sweats. “When you take a bath that’s warmer than your body temp, your pores open and moisture evaporates — exactly what you don’t want to happen,” Dr. Hirsch says. If you yearn for a warm soak, limit it to five minutes and use a creamy wash with petrolatum or sunflower oil heading the ingredient list (a new one: Dove Cream Oil Body Wash, $7). Rather than leaving skin squeaky-clean — and often stripped — milky sudsers coat skin so it doesn’t shed its natural oils. Just as crucial: Gently pat dry with a towel, keeping skin a bit damp, then immediately apply cream to trap water. “It’s similar to putting sealant on a newly painted wall; you’re locking in moisture,” Dr. Hirsch says.
Myth: Trimming your cuticles is the only surefire method for tidying them up.
Truth: The best way to keep cuticles from looking ragged is to quit snipping them altogether. Using cuticle clippers is akin to impulsively grabbing a handful of M&M’s from the office candy bowl — it’s hard to stop yourself even though you’re well aware that the neat digits you score post-trim won’t last much longer than that sugar rush. But think of this analogy the next time your willpower wanes: When you cut your cuticles, they actually grow back tougher and rougher because your skin overcompensates to counter the assault. “Cuticles are designed to protect nails, so bacteria, fungus and moisture don’t interfere with their growth,” explains Debra Wattenberg, M.D., a dermatologist in NYC. “If you traumatize them, you could end up with an infection as well as bumps, ridges or discoloration.” Once you break the trimming cycle and start using moisturizer diligently, cuticles should soften in a few months. In the meantime, only clip hangnails that are snaggly and keep fingers pretty by soaking tips in warm water for five minutes, then gently push back cuticles with an angled wood stick.
Myth: Dry skin is behind any flakes on your scalp this time of year.
Truth: Dandruff tends to be year-round; you simply notice it more now. Surprisingly, dandruff isn’t caused by dryness but a fungus called Malassezia globosa. In winter, flecks show up more against darker clothes, and the low humidity makes them dislodge from your scalp more easily. Stop them anytime by using shampoo and conditioner with pyrithione zinc. (Try Head & Shoulders Dry Scalp Care, $8.) If flakes don’t vanish in a month, see your derm; they can also signal psoriasis.
Myth: To soften rough feet, moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
Truth: It’s more important to exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate. Don’t blame your foot lotion for being ineffective. “Any hydrator will absorb much better once you get rid of thick, tough skin on heels,” says Kenneth Mark, M.D., a dermatologist in NYC. To do that: Sit on the edge of the tub and slough with a crystal buffer (such as Perfect Formula Crystal Pedi-Buff, $32) right after you shower, while your feet are still damp and course spots are softer. No time for a shower? Use a stainless steel file, which works best when skin is dry.
Myth: Your balm addiction is exacerbating your swollen, chapped lips.
Truth: Licking your lips is a more likely culprit. If going without your fave lip balm for a day (heck, for three hours) sounds as challenging as skipping your morning latte, you may be subconsciously licking off the stuff or pressing lips together, leaving behind saliva. That’s bad news for your mouth, because saliva is acidic (to help dissolve food for digestion) and therefore dehydrating to the thin skin on lips. Make an effort not to lick, and choose salves with superstar softeners such as jojoba oil or shea butter. (Both are in ChapStick 100% Naturals Botanical Medley, $3.) Also avoid minty balms. “Ones that tingle may contain drying menthol,” Dr. Hirsch warns. Finally, look for a tube that’s fragrance-free to curb irritation. n
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