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Winter skin care secrets from the pros

Top dermatologists and other experts share tips on how to protect your skin from the elements.

If you believe the groundhog's prediction last week, we're in for a whole lot more winter. And while another month of snow sports and cozy nights by a fireplace doesn't sound too terrible, most of us in cold climates could do without the mayhem the season causes for the body's largest organ—your skin.

You're probably familiar: no matter how much moisturizer you slather on, your skin still maintains Sahara-level dryness. Blame it on a combination of factors. Elemental irritants like wind play a part, but the main culprit is indoor heating and the drastic atmospheric change it creates. "While the humidity outside may be as high as 60 or 70 percent, the inside humidity is in the 15 to 20 percent range," says Jeffrey Dover, a dermatologist at SkinCare Physicians in the Boston area.

Since you probably won't abandon your thermostat anytime soon (and we don't blame you), we turned to five skin care experts—in some of the country's colder locales—for advice on how to combat the parch.

dr. debra jaliman, m.d., dermatologist in manhattan, ny and author of skin rules

"For dry skin it's important to use a mild cleanser. Leave your exfoliating cleanser for spring and summer when the weather is warmer. Choose a cleanser with glycerin, hyaluronic acid or ceramides. CeraVe Facial Cleanser is a good choice. Trish McAvoy's Beauty Booster Cream SPF 30 is perfect for every day for dry skin because it contains glycerin as well as bisabolol and olive oil. Bisabolol is anti-inflammatory and an anti-irritant so it's especially good for sensitive skin. I'm a big believer in using sunscreen every day, rain or shine, because sun damage is cumulative. And always sleep with a humidifier, as indoor air is very dry."

holli thompson, certified holistic health coach in washington, dc, and author of discover your nutritional style

"Organic coconut oil is a savior for dry skin in the winter. It doesn’t clog pores, so you can use it all over your body following a shower or bath, or lather it on before bed. I love to put it all over my skin, including my face. The nice part is that it doesn’t stain your sheets or pajamas! I also use it on my hair, a few hours before washing. I’ve also started dry brushing my skin regularly, as the winter dryness set in. You can purchase a dry brush at most drug stores; its a natural bristle brush with a wooden handle. Use upward motions starting at your toes, up your legs, arms and torso. Once you get used to this, you’ll begin to crave how soft your skin feels, and how invigorating it is to your circulation."

dr. jeffrey dover, m.d., dermatologist at skincare physicians in chestnut hill, ma and associate clinical professor of dermatology at yale university school of medicine

"The best way to combat winter dryness and dullness is through prevention. Avoid hot baths and long hot showers, use a moisturizing cleanser rather than soap, which will help keep skin from drying out, and apply moisturizer while the skin is still damp after showering. Following this regimen is a good way to prevent the skin from drying out and also keep it from getting that dull look which increases as the winter progresses. My favorite moisturizing cleanser is Olay 2-in-1 Essential Oil Ribbons moisturizing body wash; for the face, Aveeno Clear Complexion, CeraVe PM and Cetaphil cream; and for the body, Cetaphil lotion and Aveeno Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream."

jessa blades, natural beauty expert, makeup artist and owner of blades natural beauty in brooklyn, ny

"In winter you need a lot more moisture, and I recommend face oils, because they're heavier than lotion. Lotion is just oil blended with water, so it's essentially watered down. A product that I love is Earth Tu Face face balm—it really melts into your skin. It has oil to moisturize and beeswax to protect, and it also has immortelle and rose, two essential oils that are really healing. It's also a great time to be eating really good quality fats, like avocado, or put it on your face and make it a hydrating face mask. I like to make a mask with a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of yogurt, and half an avocado. I use it once a week—it's high in fatty acids and won't clog pores. The yogurt has lactic acid, so it's a gentle way to exfoliate without irritating sensitive winter skin, avocados are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and honey is an emollient that is really hydrating and also does a little gentle exfoliation."

kelly mack, owner and esthetician at absolute precision skin care in chicago, il

"I love Barrier Repair from Dermalogica when heading outdoors. It helps shield skin and prevent inflammation and irritation. I also suggest taking advantage of the winter season to get chemical peels. Summer is a bit risky, as your skin is constantly opposed to sun, but in the winter when it's cold and we're hibernating so our skin has more time to recover. And consider using a toner. My favorite is the Stone Crop Hydrating Mist from Eminence. It puts hydration directly onto your skin while healing it, and it smells fantastic."
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