Nourishing your summer skin in a desert environment requires year-round vigilance. If living in this kind of climate is new to you, you might be surprised how difficult it can be to keep skin smooth and moisturized during the winter.
Water makes up about 75% of the skin — the body’s largest organ — and it rapidly evaporates throughout the day. Drinking plenty of water is the most important and simplest way to help hydrate the skin. But drinking water alone can’t prevent dry, flaky skin.
Humidity is rarely above 50% at any time of the year in the desert, so using a moisturizer is essential. But you might want to re-think the type of moisturizer you’re using. That’s the first of our tips for how to adjust to the winter:
• Use an oil-based moisturizer: Anyone living in the Southwest needs to apply moisturizer more often than a resident of, say, the Pacific Northwest. Many people use water-based moisturizers, but those evaporate quickly in the arid environment. To restore moisture to dry skin, choose a heavier, oil-based moisturizer that contains ingredients that help keep your skin hydrated. For very dry and cracked skin, petrolatum-based products are preferable.
• Invest in “medical grade” skin care products: Tucson dermatologist Dr. Katherine A. Orlick explains that “medical grade skincare lines […] are comprised of higher strength formulations to deeply penetrate your skin. Store-bought products often contain formulations with a lower percentage of active ingredients, and some can contain chemicals that are actually harmful to the skin over time.”
• Add a heavy nighttime cream: Moisturizers applied beneath makeup during the day are typically lighter, non-greasy formulations that include sunscreen. At night, your skin goes into “beauty sleep” mode and re-hydrates if it has a little help. A night cream provides that assistance, gradually penetrating deeper into the skin while you sleep.
• Buy a humidifier: Maybe even two. Use one in your bedroom and the other in your living room, if possible. Humidifiers add moisture to the air, so you’re in an environment that’s friendlier to your skin.
• Get a light peel or microdermabrasion: A chemical peel or microdermabrasion may seem counterintuitive for the drier winter months, when you want to avoid any skin treatment that seems harsh. But a light chemical peel or microdermabrasion treatment scrubs away dead skin — and that helps the healthy skin underneath to better absorb moisturizers. You probably only want 1 or 2 treatments each winter.
• Avoid soaking in the bath: A nice, luxurious, hot bath on a cold winter’s night seems so tempting. Resist that temptation, at least most of the time. Hot water saps your skin of moisture (the same is true for hot showers, so cut those short, too). Alcohol is another culprit that can strip the skin of natural oils.
Besides these tips, plan on spending a little extra time on your skin care routine during the winter months. And, as always, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.