Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter Skin 101

Since almost the entire country is experiencing cold, in fact freezing or below freezing temperatures (like we are in Colorado), I wanted to post several ideas to help you save your skin this winter. Hopefully most of the following information you already know, but I thought it was a good time to give a refresher course in Winter Skin 101. Im starting from the bottom (feet) up.


I dont know about you, but my heels get deep cracks in them once the weather turns permanently cold. Not only is it unsightly with the skin getting rough and flaky, but those cracks can really deepen and even become infected—Ouch! If this tends to happen to you, start now to keep that skin soft, supple, well-exfoliated, and of course crack-free.

First, purchase a heel buffer, like what a technician uses in a pedicure. Each night before you go to bed and every time before you get in the shower (or bath), buff away at those heels. You want to use this buffer on dry skin. If your skin is moist, the cells stick to the surface and are harder to eliminate. Then after your bath or shower or before you turn in for the night, be sure to moisturize the heels as well. This will help keep the skin from getting too rough, hopefully mitigating any neglect that caused the dry heel problem in the first place.

For a more intensive treatment: while youre home for at least an hour or so (perhaps before you go to bed at night), put an intensive treatment cream on your heels. Im a fan of balms because they are thicker than creams and have a better healing ability. (I have a Shea butter balm that I love.) You can find these types of products at expensive department stores or stores like Target and Walgreens. Check in the skin care aisle and you should be able to find something that fits your budget. There is even a product available that treats dry, cracked and chapped cow udders (yes, you read correctly!)—called Bag Balm—that can help with your dry, cracked heels. When I was a little girl my mom introduced me to Bag Balm and it really does really; its also fairly inexpensive. No matter what you end up purchasing, these heavier creams or balms are what youll want to use on your dry, cracked heelsoften.

After applying your treatment product liberally to your heels, put on socks. Its best if you dont have to do much walking around so the cream has a better chance of staying on your skin vs. absorbing into the socks. I like to keep the balm on my nightstand and put it on my heels before I get into bed. If you read or watch TV at night, this foot treatment would be a good thing to do during that time.

I have found my heels dont even start to crack if I plan ahead and start doing these foot treatments before it gets too cold, then continue treating them throughout the winter. Hopefully you will find relief, too, and youll have happy feet all winter long.


Exfoliation is step number one for softer, more hydrated skin—whether on your face (see below) or your body. There are several different products and procedures you can use to get rid of dead skin cells. Just remember: always exfoliate first, them moisturize.

If you are not currently moisturizing your entire body every time you get out of the shower or bath, you need to start now—before your skin starts to look and feel like an alligators! I cant go even once without slathering my whole body with lotion after a shower or bath. I admit this is a habit I had to force myself to get into, but now, years later, it is just that—a habit. I havent always applied body creams, but once I experienced the hard, cold winters in Chicago (and now Colorado), it became an absolute must. Since it only takes a few seconds to apply, I highly recommend starting this practice each and every time you come out of water. It will do your skin a world of good.

Because there is a lot of surface area to cover, I tend to use inexpensive creams on my body. I am in and out of water frequently (I take lots of baths in the wintertime), so Ill go through a lot of product. Also, my body lotion must have a pump dispenser. As silly as it might sound, I dont like having to pick up the bottle, open the top, and shake or squeeze a cream out. Body lotion with a pump dispenser is the solution for me.

Start now to get your whole body exfoliated and moisturized, and keep that alligator skin away. Youll save yourself a lot of uncomfortable moments once the really cold weather comes to stay for another winter.

For more details, see BODY: The many ways to exfoliate


Recently a Boulder client was complaining about the fact that her hands get so dry during the winter, and actually somewhat all year round. For those of you who arent familiar with Colorado, the air is very dry causing all kinds of dry skin problems—head (including hair!) to toe. Add to the dry air cold winter temperatures and your skin—everyones skin here—is in sometimes desperate need of hydration.

My recommendation for this client was to do something similar to what Im having you do to your dry, cracked heels. For an effective intensive hand treatment:
  • Buy thin, surgical gloves (found at stores like Target and possibly your local grocery store)
  • Choose a time where you will be home for at least an hour or so and your hands wont need to be in water (and out of these gloves)
  • Liberally apply your foot balm or any other moisturizer (even a simple body lotion will do)
  • Then slip your hands into these gloves. They will create an environment where the cream can have a deep moisturizing effect

If you can sleep with the gloves on (or socks for that matter, conditioning your heels) that would be a good way to treat your dry hands all night long. Personally, I cant have anything on my hands or feet while sleeping, but if you can—do!

Obviously, keeping lotion on your hands whenever possible is a good idea. My hands are in and out of water all day when Im working, so having lotion on them in between treatments keeps them from getting dried out. I have hand lotion on my nightstand, and also on my coffee table at home. I dont have to reach far to put some soothing hydrating cream on my hands wherever I am, home or work. Also see:


Weve now arrived at your face. How many times have I discussed exfoliation? A lot! And why is that? Because it is so important!—especially during the winter months when our skin gets exposed to the extreme elements. Heat from inside our homes and other buildings (including our cars), which takes water out of the air, along with the cold air outside causes dehydration, plain and simple. The best way to treat dehydration is exfoliation.

Please, no hard brushes on the face!
One of the key characteristics of dehydrated skin is an over-accumulation of dried out skin cells. This can make your skin feel rough to the touch and look somewhat sallow or lacking color. Removing some of those dead cells on a regular basis makes your skin feel smooth and soft along with helping to keep it well-hydrated.

You know my favorite way to exfoliate is Yonkas Gommage. You could also use more common exfoliators, like facial scrubs and AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) products. Whatever you choose to use, exfoliate at least once a week, more often if youre feeling dried out or flaky. Dont skip this step! It is essential to helping your facial skin get through the rough winter months.

If youre not quite clear about what exfoliation is or why you want to exfoliate, see All About Exfoliation to get the full scoop.


In several of the articles Ive written concerning dehydration, Ive included information about adding hydration helpers into your moisturizers to help make them more emollient. Yonka’s Hydra+ (formerly Hydralia) is one such product. Hydra+ is a glycerin-based elixir that adds extra moisture to your skin without adding additional oil. Glycerin is a humectant; it attracts moisture to itself. It makes for an overall good hydrating ingredient in moisturizers and concentrates such as Hydra+. There are, of course, alternatives to using a Yonka product specifically. You could go to the store (Target or Walgreens, for instance) and get a glycerin product. In the past I have found glycerin with rose water, and recently I found straight glycerin (99.5%).

Youll want to add 4-6 drops of your hydrating elixir into your day and/or night cream, basically mixing your cream and the elixir together in your hands then applying to your face and neck. The same application goes for Hydra+—youd put 1-2 squirts into your creme, mix, and apply. If you feel you need to add a few more drops, go right ahead. Glycerin is not an oil, so it shouldnt make your skin feel oily—just hydrated.

Adding glycerin to your creams is a small step that will do an amazing job of super-hydrating your skin. Youll want to use hydration helpers day and night throughout the winter until it starts warming up or until you dont feel like you need the extra moisture anymore. If you have true-dry (oil-dry) skin, you might want to or need to use extra hydration all year round.

Finally, I will mention Yonkas Advanced Optimizer Serum (formerly Optimizer Fluid). This is my all-time favorite product. It has made a huge difference in the hydration level of my skin (especially after moving to Colorado) and has helped many of my clients as well. Youll want to apply Optimizer Serum under your moisturizer vs. adding it to your creams like you would Hydra+. It, too, adds moisture without adding oil, which makes it perfect for all skin types—even oilier skin.

To read an article explaining the difference between Hydra+ (formerly Hydralia) and Optimizer Serum, click here.

Last but not least, if you want to add extra moisture to the air inside your home, try using a humidifier. Used in your bedroom while you sleep, it will add much needed moisture into the air (and your lungs) and help to keep your skin from drying out. If you think about it, while you are lying in bed sleeping, the heat in your home is taking moisture out of the air—and of course, your skin too. Using a humidifier can really make a big difference in the hydration level of your skin, both face and body. However, set it up away from furniture to keep any wood from warping.

I hope you can use some of these tools to get you through another winter without having dry skin issues!

For more information, see:
Me & a few friends on the Mt. Sanitas Trail in Boulder CO