During the colder months, my skin goes through changes. Most noticeably, I get dry, cracked hands that make me want to wear gloves all day. Usually, the rest of my skin fares better, but I tend to still slather on lotions, creams and oils as a preventative measure to avoid dryness. Even though the weather has finally started to warm up (helloooo, spring!), I don’t want to jump the gun and retire my deep moisturizing routine just yet.
I recently had the chance to talk with Dr. Janet Prystowsky, a Manhattan-based dermatologist, about some budget-friendly beauty tips that will keep your skin glowing as winter ends and spring begins.
Here’s an edited and condensed excerpt from our interview:
What are some of the most common skincare problems people during the winter months?
The main problem is dry skin — the skin just overall tends to be dry and that leads to — specifically, in the hands — a lot of cracking, around cuticles. And on heels, some split skin.
What’s a good treatment for that?
For an everyday treatment on hands, I use Aquaphor ointment ($13.59). I take all my rings off and use about a teaspoon full. I apply it all over my hands, pushing it directly into my cuticles. If my nails aren’t polished, [I apply it] to the actual nail plate. After a minute or so, I take a Kleenex and wipe it all off.
That leaves a very smooth and non-greasy feel. The petrolatum that’s in the ointment will then seal in the moisture so that during the day your hands aren’t feeling cracked and irritated.
What makes Aquaphor a better option than creams or lotions?
It’s the petrolatum. Aquaphor also has a little lanolin in it which helps in moisturizing, but the main ingredient is petrolatum. Products that have a bit of a greasy feel — more like an ointment or heavy cream — the oils in these products basically prevent water evaporation into the air, which is why people experience dry skin in the winter. The air has relatively less moisture in it, so water evaporates from your skin into the air and it dries out. So if you can seal it in, you can prevent that evaporation.
In terms of face care, I’ve been seeing more gel-based moisturizers. And face oils are kind of still a thing. Do these work year-round — or just during a specific time of year?
Anything that’s a gel based product is going to tend to be more drying, because gels always have some form of alcohol in them to help the gel dry. I don’t think gels are well-suited for winter use and don’t recommend them for that time of year.
As far as oils go, I recommend a very thin oil like Squalene. It’s a very light fine oil that goes on and soaks in quickly so that you don’t feel greasy. I have a lot of patients that use that on their face and other parts of the body during the wintertime and sometimes even in the summer because it’s so thin. In the warmer months, if someone wants to put some on to moisturize their face and then apply sunscreen it’s a great undercoating, because it’s so thin and light. You don’t feel like you’ve put on a heavy lotion and then tried to put sunscreen over top.
For people that have experienced dryness this winter, when will that start to go away? And do you recommend changing your skincare routine when spring starts?
As soon as the temperatures get above 60 or 70 degrees, the humidity in the atmosphere starts rising. That’s when everybody’s skin improves in terms of dryness. As the hotter summer months roll in, you may notice that any extra perspiration might leave you feeling too greasy. That’s when you want to pull back on using the shower oils or extra heavy creams and ointments for moisturizing and switch to lighter moisturizers like Lubriderm ($7.22) or Curel ($7.99).
Anything else you recommend in terms of transitioning from winter to spring skincare?
As far as exfoliation goes, we’re always reading about how you want to get all those dead skin cells off your skin to make it smoother. During the winter, it’s smart to scale back on that [due to excessive dryness]. As you get more into the spring and summer, you can visit [to a dermatologist] for mild chemical peels or you can start adding products with glycolic acid to your skincare routine or salicylic acid products to help keep your pores open and skin smoother.
To get more skincare tips from Dr. Prystowsky, visit her website at www.janetprystowskymd.com.