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When we hear the term “New Year,” many of us reflexively start pondering parts of our lives that may be due for a refresh. Could our skincare routine be one of them? The following are some potential signs that it may be time to tune up your regimen.
Your complexion feels bone dry. No matter how much water you drink, the skin tends to be most dehydrated and fragile during winter, due to cool temperatures outside, toasty heaters inside, and relatively low humidity. Harsh or fragranced soaps can bring out dryness and rash, which is why it helps to choose a mild cleanser, such as Cetaphil, Aquanil, or a Dove Sensitive skin bar. Brief, lukewarm baths and showers are less drying than long, hot ones. And dermatologists recommend a soak-and-smear approach: Pat the skin dry after bathing, and immediately smear on a rich, hydrating cream to sock and seal in moisture. You may also want to consider a bedroom humidifier – some people find that it improves their dryness. And if there’s a specific zone of your body that’s persistently flaky – such as your nose, forehead, ears, scalp, lower legs, or elbows – consider a visit with a dermatologist, who can check for skin conditions that can masquerade as dryness, such as eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis (what many people call dandruff), or even actinic keratoses (precancers of the skin that can feel like dry, scaly spots).
Your skin looks dull. A natural buildup of old, dead cells on the skin’s surface can add roughness and texture and reduce light reflection off the skin, leading to a loss of radiance. Exfoliation once or twice a week can make a difference (but scrub too hard or too often, and you could actually leave your skin red, raw, irritated, or even scratched or traumatized). Consider a wash, serum, or peel containing an alpha hydroxy acid (such as glycolic acid) or beta hydroxy acid (like salicylic acid) – but take caution if your complexion is on the sensitive side, since these agents can cause irritation or redness and are not tolerated by everyone. Other options include gentle face and body scrubs or brushes, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and home microneedling (sometimes called dermarollers). Or take a tip from your wise grandmother and realize that new products are not always necessary: You could just buff the skin by making small circles with a warm wet washcloth and a mild cleanser.
Your elbows, arms, legs, or knees have become rough or ashy. These areas can improve with flake-fighting moisturizers, such as AmLactin Lotion, CeraVe SA Cream for Rough and Bumpy Skin, or Gold Bond Rough & Bumpy Daily Therapy Cream. A dermatologist can help you determine if the reason for your roughness may be psoriasis, eczema, or keratosis pilaris.
You’re breaking out. Holiday stress and a less-than-ideal diet could contribute to an uptick in blemishes. Check your product labels to make sure they say “non-comedogenic” (this means they should not contain ingredients that can clog pores). Tackle breakouts with a blemish-fighting topical containing benzoyl peroxide (found in many drugstore products, including La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo Acne Spot Treatment, Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment, or Panoxyl Creamy Wash), salicylic acid (a common ingredient in acne washes), or Differin gel (a retinoid that can help treat and prevent small breakouts), or ideally a combination of these ingredients. More and more people are turning to tea tree oil, which may help acne a bit – though this ingredient can cause skin allergies. When drugstore remedies are not enough or scars are forming, a dermatologist can tailor a prescription-strength regimen for your skin.
You’re itching like crazy. There are dozens of potential causes of skin itching – and if it’s persistent or disrupting your sleep, it’s time for a dermatologic consultation. But for now, cleanse your skin gently, moisturize liberally, and in a moment of desperate itching, reach for an ice pack or a menthol-containing moisturizer, such as Sarna Lotion or Gold Bond Anti-Itch Lotion, that you store in the fridge. The cooling sensation soothes and distracts itchy nerves.
You’re noticing signs of age – and that’s a beautiful thing. Why shouldn’t we wear with pride any well-earned fine lines that reflect a lifetime of smiles and experiences? Many effective treatments exist to address cosmetic concerns – including lasers, injectables, peels, treatments, and restorative creams. But the best New Year’s gift you could give to your skin – regardless of your birth date – is consistent, everyday use of a sunscreen or moisturizer with broad-spectrum, SPF 30+ protection. We can’t stop the New Year’s countdown, but sun protection truly can turn back the skin’s clock, making it healthier, more youthful and radiant.