Winter Skin Care

By Sara Vigneri

Skin is your body’s largest organ. It covers, protects and defends against toxins and other harmful elements so it’s vital that you keep it healthy. The appearance of your skin speaks volumes. For example, wrinkles and sunspots send a message to the world: you may have had fun in the sun, but now you look like a prune. Luckily, there is always the opportunity to repair your skin, and winter is a great time to rejuvenate this important organ.

While the summer sun can be brutal on the skin, the dry air of winter is actually worse. “Warm air holds a lot of moisture but cold air doesn’t,” says Dr. John Altobelli, M.D., a plastic surgeon in private practice in Allentown. “While summer sun is potentially damaging, the moisture in the air helps compensate for the dryness of the sun’s heat. Winter air combined with dry indoor heat is terrible for skin.” And while it may be tempting to take steaming hot showers on those chilly winter mornings, your skin will not appreciate the gesture. “The heat from the shower softens the oils in your skin,” says Karen Sedler, a medical aesthetician with Advanced Aesthetics of PA in Bethlehem. “When you add soap to the mix, that hot shower will strip your skin of its oil barrier making it dry and itchy. Dry winter air only exacerbates the problem, taking away even more moisture.” So do your skin a favor and keep showers short and use lukewarm water.

Your skin is actually a collection of layered cells – the bottom layer contains new skin cells which work their way up through the layers as they age. The top layer that you see is the dead skin cells that have made their way up, a journey that takes two to four weeks. Skin care specialists have various ways to expedite that process because newer skin cells look healthier and are better able to absorb moisturizers and creams.

One such popular procedure is the photofacial – it’s available at salons and involves a device with an intense pulse light that evens out the skin, particularly those brown spots created by the sun. It’s best to do these treatments in the winter since you need to avoid sun exposure afterward and it can create a lot of redness in the skin. “This procedure removes the sins of the summer,” says Mary McMurtrie, laser technician and skin care consultant with Aesthetica Cosmetic and Laser Center.

Other options include an Enbrightenment Discoloration Treatment facial at Evolve Salon & Spa. “We use the balancing Ayurveda philosophies of elemental nature,” explains Elaine Dimitriadis, an esthetician at Evolve, which uses only Aveda products in their facials. “This treatment will help prevent discoloration and reverse hyperpigmentation.”

No amount of skin layer removal will impact the deep lines and wrinkles caused by years of sun exposure. If you are concerned about the lines on your face, you may want to consider Juvederm, which is a “smooth gel filler that your doctor uses to instantly smooth away wrinkles around your mouth and nose,” accoding to . “Juvederm is well tolerated, and elicits very little allergic reaction because it’s similar to naturally occurring components of our skin,” says Altobelli. “It’s quick, affordable and because it contains a product similar to what already exists in your cells, your body tolerates it better.”

There are plenty of other procedures you can do to help your skin look healthier and erase the damage from the summer but the real key to beautiful skin is maintaining a regular skin care regimen. Consider this your three-step plan to healthier winter skin:

Step 1: Exfoliate

“I recommend exfoliating your body at least four times a week,” says Sedler. “Chemical exfoliation products are a good option: rather than containing granules, these use mild acids, such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA), including salicylic acid and also retinols.” While it may sound scary to douse your skin in acid, AHA and BHA are mildly abrasive, but strong enough to remove that top layer of skin. However, you should only do this once a day, preferably at night after cleaning your face. If you think you need a professional exfoliation, you can schedule an appointment for a microdermabrasion or chemical peel. “Both help to exfoliate your skin while reducing fine lines, dark spots and build your collagen,” says Sedler.

Step 2: Moisturize

Now that you’ve removed that outer layer of dead cells, your skin is ready to absorb moisturizers. “Look for products that contain hyaluronic acid,” says McMurtrie. “It will grab 1,000 times its weight in water and make a seal, plus it doesn’t create excess oil.” In fact, Dimitriadis says it has been credited as key to the fountain of youth. McMurtrie also recommends products with algae extract since it is similar to our skin’s water and salt content. If you are older, you may need shea butter to create a barrier against outside cold air and indoor dry heat, both of which dehydrate the skin.

Step 3: Protect

When you stowed away your summer towels and bathing suit, did you also stash your sunscreen? Big mistake. “In the winter, the sun is closer to the earth and its rays are even stronger,” says Sedler. “Choose a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher that protects from both UVA and UVB rays.” Sunscreen is a must when you go outside for winter sports, especially in snow which reflects the sun. There are a lot of products that provide sunscreen without making your skin greasy, including mineral make-ups with SPF that perform double duty as both a cover-up and protection against the sun. “They now have products, such as those by Skinceuticals, with micronized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide so it doesn’t make your skin white and greasy,” says McMurtrie. “There are also products, like Replenix, that add antioxidants to counteract free radical damage from the sun.”

Sure it’s cold and gloomy outside, but in a few short months you will be back out in the sun, so take the time to prep your skin for next year’s summer fun.

Aesthetica Cosmetic and Laser Center

1342 Chelsea Ave, Bethlehem

Advanced Aesthetics of PA
74 West Broad Street, Bethlehem

Altobelli Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery
Regency Towers, 1600 Lehigh Parkway East, Allentown

Evolve Salon & Spa
The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley

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