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Tender Care for Winter Skin

Outdoors, it's cold and blustery; indoors, it's hot and arid. There's no escape from winter's drying, chapping effects, especially if you're also bathing babies, building snowmen, and washing your hands every five minutes. To keep skin soft and supple, try these tips:

Body Basics

At this time of year, there's less humidity in the air, so skin loses moisture faster than it can replace it, says Marianne O'Donoghue, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, in Chicago. The body, which has fewer oil glands than the face, is hit hardest.

  • Wash wisely. Hot water and long baths draw moisture out of skin; you're better off with a quick shower in warm water. "And unless you're very active, there's no need to use cleanser on your whole body every day  -- every other is fine," says D'Anne Kleinsmith, M.D., a dermatologist in West Bloomfield, MI. "More than that will strip skin of essential oils." The exception: the folds of the skin (underarms, genitals, buttocks), which need daily washing. Use a gentle soap  -- such as Dove or Purpose  -- or a creamy cleanser, such as Jergens Extra Moisturizing Body Wash.

    If your skin is especially flaky, use an exfoliating body wash twice a week. A new one to try: Clinique Soft Polish Body Exfoliator. Shaving exfoliates too, but to avoid irritating overdry skin, use a rich shaving lotion, such as Skintimate Moisturizing Shave Gel Ultra Protection.

  • Lock in moisture. After you step out of the shower, use a towel to gently blot skin, leaving it a little damp. Hydrate immediately to trap moisture. Look for products with natural plant oils (like jojoba, sweet almond, avocado, or sesame), such as Benefit Avocado Potion or Aquaphor; other rich hydrators include squalane and glycerin. Avoid mineral oil: Its molecules are too large to penetrate skin. And look for water-resistant hand creams, such as Curel Soothing Hands, for extra protection through multiple diaper changes.

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