The cold outdoors and heated interiors make for a one-two punch that leaves skin prone to dryness. Nobody wants dry itchy skin. And while there are oodles of commercial products promising supple hydration, too many moisturizers do their bidding with synthetic ingredients that nobody should be rubbing into the largest organ of the body. Really, keep this in mind: Skin covers an area of 21 square feet on the average adult, and plays host to more than 11 miles of blood vessels. Who wants to be rubbing petroleum distillates and parabens into that?
The following practices promise to soothe and hydrate, and when occasion calls for it, by the use of gentle ingredients that you may already have on hand:
1. Skip the hot shower
Few things feel better than a steaming hot shower on a cold day. Your skin disagrees. Super hot water dries it out to no end. Give it a lukewarm shower, and if you use soap, make sure it is all natural and the most gentle one you can find.
2. Employ staples to exfoliate
You can buy an expensive jar of salt or sugar scrub to exfoliate – which removes dead skin cells and creates fresh skin that is more easily able to absorb moisturizers – or you can quickly whip up some all-natural formulas in your kitchen for pennies. See this for all the secret tricks: 8 homemade salt and sugar body scrubs.
3. Moisturize while damp
Whatever your moisturizing routine, do it when you’re fresh from the shower or bath – lotions are designed to lock in moisture, so make their job easier by using them when your skin is at its most moist.
4. Douse yourself with milk
Who needs lotion when you have milk in the fridge? If you’re feeling itchy, pour a bowl of milk, dip a washcloth in it and apply it to your skin for five minutes. Milk is soothing and its lactic acid is great for skin. According to Susan C. Taylor, MD, from the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, milk can stop the itch cycle. "Milk has anti-inflammatory properties that often take the itch away," she says.
5. Bathe like Cleopatra
6. Slather yourself with honey and olive oil
Honey has incredible properties that make it a great friend to skin; olive oil does too. Combine them as suggested in 8 ways to use honey to pamper your skin and hair: Mix a spoonful of honey with a spoonful of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice (a natural skin brightener). Apply this lotion to dry areas and let sit for 20 minutes. Wipe off with a warm washcloth.
7. Try the overnight express
When skin is particularly dry, this treatment can't be beat. Take a long, tepid bath before bed; long enough that your toes and fingers begin to wrinkle. Pat yourself dry and immediately coat yourself in oil – Dee Anna Glaser, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at St. Louis University School of Medicine recommends Crisco, but I think olive oil or coconut oil sounds a little more appetizing. Whatever your choice in oil, spread it all over, put on some old pajamas that you don't care that much about, and send yourself to sleep. Wake up soft.
8. Take an oatmeal bath
Oatmeal has been used to treat skin for a few thousand years; and even science says that it's effective for its moisturizing, cleansing, antioxidative, and anti-inflammatory properties, while at the same time offering minimal incidence of irritation.
To make an oatmeal bath: Blend 1 cup of dry oatmeal (use plain instant, quick oats, or slow cooking oats) in a food processor or blender until you have a fine powder. Scatter the mixture into a tub with running water, swirling with your hand a few times for even distribution and breaking up any lumps on the bottom of the tub. Soak in the bath for 15 to 20 minutes, pat yourself dry when you get out. Depending on how dry your skin is, you can use this up to twice a day, or more if your doctor agrees.
9. Don't drink water ... what?!
Every advice given by every supermodel urges us to drink water for our skin. Everyone chimes in with the same suggestion, but is it true? Even though drinking water is crucial for good health – and, you know, survival – many a dermatologist promises that as an end to beautiful skin, it's a myth. According to WebMD and other experts, water is good for the skin of someone who is severely dehydrated, "but the average person's skin does not reflect the amount of water being drunk," says Kenneth Bielinski, MD, a dermatologist in Oak Lawn, Ill., "It's a very common misconception." Which of course isn't to say don't drink water, but according to many, don't do it at the expense of other efforts to keep your covering moisturized.