Maybe it’s all that time we spend cooped up (and bored) indoors, but the winter months are prime-time for stirring up rumors that rival any Real Housewives reunion. We talked to top skin experts to set the record straight about your skin during the harshest season.
Myth: Using too much lip balm can cause an addiction.
Truth: The real habit you want to avoid is lip-licking, according to New York dermatologist Fran Cook-Bolden. “The important thing is to choose a bland cream or ointment, like Aquaphor Lip Repair or Avene Cold Cream Lip Balm,” she says. “If you use one with too many ingredients, it can cause an unnoticeable irritation that actually results in dry, irritated lips, making you feel that you need to apply more balm, which then makes it worse.”
Myth: It's ok to slack off on sunscreen in the winter, as long as you’re not spending much time outdoors.
Truth: The sun’s harmful rays don’t discriminate based on the season. “The UV rays that cause wrinkles and skin cancer are just as strong in the winter, and the reflection of sunlight from the sidewalks and snow can make it even stronger,” says dermatologist Doris Day. Don’t forget that UV rays can travel through windows, which is why many people have more sun damage on the left side of their face and body—where you’re most hit with rays while you’re driving. Play it safe by applying an SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen like Kiehl’s Vital Sun Protection Lotion SPF 30.
Myth: Cold air makes your skin dry and flaky. Truth: “Anything that can strip away the natural fatty oils that protect our skin and keep it hydrated and feeling soft can cause dryness,” says Cook-Bolden. So while cold may have something to do with it, the lack of humidity in the winter months, and indoor heat are likely even bigger culprits. Many people may not realize that they have certain types of eczemas and allergies, which make them more prone to dryness, she adds. To make sure your skin is getting the protection it needs to replenish its natural oils, she recommends applying a moisturizing cream--instead of a lotion—to the entire body three times a day (in the morning, after work if possible, and before bedtime). Try The Body Shop Spa Wisdom Africa Shea Butter & Sesame Body Balm. For extra protection against irritation, switch to a mild liquid laundry detergent such as Cheer Free Liquid to avoid harsh and drying ingredients that can settle on to your skin, and skip fabric softener and dryer sheets.
Myth: The frigid temps are also to blame for your dry, itchy scalp.
Truth: “When the cells of the scalp come to the surface and don’t have time to form properly, you get itchy and dry,” explains trichologist (read: scalp expert) and Lush co-founder Mark Constantine. "It's a malfunction and the natural microflora that live on the scalp make it worse." Getting more fresh air could actually be the fix, along with more exercise to boost circulation, and cutting down on carbs. In the meantime, try sudsing up with a shampoo that contains cade oil, which helps control the microbes that cause the flakes. Try LUSH Soak and Float Solid Shampoo Bar.
Myth: Steamy showers can help hydrate your skin. Truth: As much as we all love unwinding in a hot bath or shower, it’s actually one of the worst things you can do for your skin since the heat strips our protective oils and can even impart low-level burns to the skin. “Limit baths or showers to a maximum of five minutes, using lukewarm water and a small amount of mild cleanser like Cetaphil or Aveen Skin Relief Body Wash,” advises Cook-Bolden. “And consider bathing every other day if possible.” After bathing, pat skin almost dry, and apply cream to still-damp skin to lock in moisture.