Protect your skin from winter weather

When winter hits, we all have to make a few concessions when it comes to taking care of our skin.

Story highlights

  • When winter hits, dudes have to moisturize, too
  • Cold weather robs skin of moisture
  • Skin dries out more during sleep than during the day

(CNN)I have this annoying little skin condition called rosacea, which means my skin easily gets itchy and flaky when exposed to certain triggers. One such trigger? Cold, dry winter air.

Since I'm a dude, I loathe using lotions -- but when I get a rosacea flare-up in the wintertime, I break down and moisturize after my morning shave.
    When winter hits, we all have to make a few concessions when it comes to taking care of our skin. Here are three strategies to try:

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      Good: Protect your skin outdoors
      Winter is a thief -- a moisture thief. Cold winter air has an extraordinarily low moisture content, to the point where it steals moisture from the skin. "Add to that any type of wind at all, and the molecules of water in your skin are stolen even faster," says board-certified dermatologist Jessica Krant, MD, MPH, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in NYC.
        To protect against this, you need to maintain a barrier between your skin and the air. In other words, layer on both clothing and moisturizing cream. "Clothing does protect as a first layer," says Krant. "Any bare skin -- cheeks, ankles, hands -- will dry out much faster, so decrease skin exposure when you're outside by wearing gloves, long socks and earmuffs."
        Also, pre-protect your skin by applying thick moisturizing cream before you get dressed and step outside. "Prevention is more valuable than a dozen applications of cream after you're already red, dry and itchy," Krant says.
        Kate Marshall, lead aesthetician at NYC's Savor Spa, recommends this protective winter regimen: "Wash your face morning and night with a cream cleanser. Follow with an alcohol-free toner, which will help hydrate your skin and open your pores." She also suggests using a good peptide serum.
        Better: Protect your skin indoors
        Love long, hot showers? Save 'em for springtime. Krant advises keeping winter showers shorter and less hot, because hot water ultimately strips natural oils from the skin. "Slather on a thick, fragrance-free body cream -- not lotion; it's too watery! -- as soon as you get out of the shower and pat dry, before your skin gets completely dry," she advises. "Evaporation is extremely drying and the goal is to seal that extra moisture in before it escapes."
        Krant also advises that you keep a humidifier going indoors in winter -- especially at night, since the skin dries out more during sleep than during the day. And slather your lips with lip balm before sleep. "Mouth breathing at night exacerbates daytime lip chapping," She says you can also slather your lips with plain lip balm or petroleum jelly before sleep to help with the chapping.
        According to Marshall, getting monthly facials in the winter is a good idea (if you can afford it). "An enzyme peel is really good for exfoliating dead skin cells," she says.
        Best: Get a head start on winter weather
        If you really want to get through winter with silky-smooth skin, then you need to form preventive habits ahead of time. "If you know you get dry, flaky and itchy in winter," says Krant, "start your winter-skin habits in fall. Shorten your showers. Switch to a moisturizing soap, and use less of it -- arms and legs don't need as much soap as other body parts. And start applying cream everywhere twice a day -- especially on your lower legs, lower back and arms."
          She also advises that those with itchy winter skin ditch the scented body wash (it's too drying) and go for fragrance-free moisturizing bars instead. So gentlemen, it looks like you'll have to shelve that Axe body wash male-in-heat scent until spring. And ladies, you'll need to step away from the scented soaps during the winter. Your skin will thank you.