Nourish Winter Skin

Photography by: Mike Lorrig
Nourish Winter Skin

Winter is hard on skin--frigid temperatures, indoor heating, and low humidity can strip it of its moisture, resulting in a flaky, rough complexion that's about as silky as the floor of the Mohave desert. And your face invariably suffers the brunt. While other body parts are covered up, your face is almost always exposed to the cold, wind, and sun.

"Cold-weather exposure contributes to the breakdown of collagen--the connective tissue that maintains skin's firmness--and can result in increased fine lines, tightness, inflammation, and an overall red, flaky, dry complexion," explains Wilma F. Bergfeld, M.D., head of dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Her solution? Simply apply a moisturizer. The benefits are clear and immediate: "Gaps and cracks between skin cells are filled in and fortified, and elasticity is restored for a smooth and supple appearance," she says.

The challenge is finding the right moisturizer. "Now is the time to switch to a richer moisturizer that's powerful enough to not only replenish moisture loss but also to seal in the moisture that's already there," says Doris J. Day, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. To get both benefits, you needn't seek out a scientific formula; emollients made with some of the most basic, natural ingredients--such as wheat, oatmeal, soy, and jojoba--are perfectly equipped to handle the job. Here, a few of the best winter-tested creams to help you save face.

Wheat
The germ of the wheat plant is rich in vitamins A, D, and E, which are known antioxidants (substances that fight free radicals, or highly reactive oxygen molecules). Wheat also boosts skin's natural exfoliation process, which is critical for allowing softer, newer, and more radiant skin cells to surface. "It makes the skin cells less sticky, which helps dead cells slough off more easily," says Day.

Oatmeal
Colloidal, or finely crushed, oatmeal is widely known to soothe dry, itchy skin. When used topically, it binds to the outer layer of skin, creating a protective barrier against the elements.

Soy
As a source of complete protein, the soybean plant is loaded with nutrients, plant estrogens, and fatty acids; applied to the skin it forms a protective barrier against the elements. "Because it contains lecithin--a type of fat that's both an antioxidant and a natural emollient--it easily soothes itchiness and dryness," says Day. That may be why soy has long been known to treat dry skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.