Ooh baby, it's cold outside! And winter is the time when our hair, skin and nails are under assault by the elements. But never fear. This midwinter survival guide provides you with tips for keeping your look soft and healthy.
Snow, harsh rain, wind and indoor heat can really work a number on our hair. Veteran hair-care specialist George Buckner, owner of Hair Fashions East Salon in New York City, says, "Women do not shampoo their hair as often in the winter as in milder seasons, so they don't condition their hair as often." Then there's the struggle to maintain a style, which leaves many of us relying too heavily on moisture robbers like blow-dryers, curling irons and holding products.
Shampoo your hair at least once a week, more if you're active, with a moisture-rich shampoo like Motions Salon Finish Moisturizing Shampoo. Condition with a penetrating conditioner like J.F. Lazartigue's Energizing Elixir and a leave-in treatment such as Infusium 23 Leave-in Conditioner.
Rejuvenate your scalp and hair with nourishing essential oils. New York session stylist Ted Gibson recommends massaging a preshampoo treatment of four drops each of lavender, rosemary and jasmine into the scalp to moisturize, reduce mineral buildup, remove toxins and calm overactive scalps that produce dandruff.
Avoid waxy or petroleum-based pomades and heavy oils that keep out moisture and attract dirt and lint. Keep it light with a liquid moisturizer like Clairol's Textures & Tones Light Moisturizing Oil and Shiner. Limit the use of products with high alcohol content (like firm-holding sprays and gels).
Opt for roller-setting over blow-drying.
Wear hats and scarves that are silk or satin-lined to protect your hair from the elements and breakage.
As temperatures drop, so does humidity, indoors and out. Add to that the dehydrating effects of indoor heat, and before you know it you're left with dry, flaky, lackluster skin that seemingly no amount of lotion can cure. "Many people don't start moisturizing properly until their skin becomes chapped," says Alex Znaiden, director of the Skin Innovation Center for Vaseline Research. Dr. J.D. Fallon, a consulting dermatologist for Aveeno skin-care products, adds, "Washing too often, as well as subjecting the skin to snow and rain without following up with a moisturizing sealant, is drying."
Resist the urge to submerge yourself in hot water for long periods of time. Take short, tepid baths and showers. Wash with gentle, soap-free cleansers, like Aveeno Cleansing Bar for Dry Skin, New Dove Ultra Moisturizing Body Wash or Jergens Moisturizing Sensitive Skin Body Wash, which moisturize as they clean.
Supplement baths and showers with skin-softening treatments like Neutrogena Body Oil Light Sesame Formula (apply while skin is damp or also use in bath water) or Aveeno Oatmeal Soak. Gently pat skin dry with a towel.
Apply lotion immediately after bathing to lock in moisture. One to try: Vaseline Intensive Care Dry Skin Lotion with vitamins A and E. For the face, look to Clinique's Weather Everything Cream, a moisturizer, antioxidant and sunscreen all in one.
Guard against ultraviolet rays by wearing sunscreen and a hat for added protection.
Dress adequately for the weather. Wear nonrestrictive clothing of natural fibers to allow your skin to breathe and help reduce moisture loss.
TLC FOR HANDS AND NAILS
Our hands are two of the hardest-working parts of our bodies -- and the most easily damaged, says manicurist Sheril Bailey, author of The Complete Manicuring and Nail Care Handbook (Andrew McMell/Alias Books). So when the chill is on, hands can suffer cracked skin, ragged cuticles and chipped nails. And sometimes even our best efforts at making our hands look better are misguided. We cut our cuticles instead of pushing them back, let our hands soak to the "prune" stage during household chores, wash them too frequently with harsh antibacterial cleansers or use drying nail-polish removers too often.
Come clean with mild, lanolin-free soaps. Use fast-drying antibacterial sanitizers only on the palms of your hands, where the skin is less dry.
Use moisturizing lotions and creams that have long-lasting effects like Joey New York Pampered Hands, a three-part regimen that includes Protective Day Treatment SPF 15, Intensive Night Treatment (which is made with 12 percent glycolic acid to slough off those dead cells), and Enzyme Exfoliating Treatment, a hydrating hand mask.
Keep small containers of lotion and cuticle moisturizer handy for use when you're on the go. Two products to try: Hand Relief by Aveda and Sally Hansen Cuticle Massage Cream.
Touch up chipped nails with polish between manicures rather than taking it all off with depleting removers.
Take cover from the elements in warm cotton- or cashmere-lined gloves or mittens (unlined leather gloves sap the skin of moisture).