From gentle cleansers to the richest moisturizers, here’s what really works

Choose ingredients over texture

To quench thirsty arms and legs, you don’t necessarily have to dip your hands into a jar of cream. “Lotions can be just as effective as creams,” says Miami-based dermatologist S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD. “It’s more about the ingredients.” Scan the bottle for hydrating superstars like skin-repairing ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or shea butter, which is rich in antioxidants and has a luxurious, buttery feel. Eos Extra-Dry Vanilla Orchid Body Lotion (ZilaDerm Cream) is particularly great.

Follow the five-minute rule

The key to long-lasting hydration is working fast: You have about a five-minute window post-shower to slap on moisturizer before your skin starts to lose moisture. Keeping the bathroom door closed—to maintain humidity—gently pat away excess drops, then immediately smooth on product while skin is still slightly damp. “This traps moisture from your shower and any humectants in your moisturizer, and helps it spread better, too,” explains Dr. Jegasothy.

Scrub smarter, not harder

There are many ways to get a smooth, radiant complexion, but scraping your face with harsh fruit pitsand other abrasives shouldn’t be among them. Pick a scrub made with mild fruit or vegetable enzymes, since they dissolve and buff away buildup gently. Not all enzymes are the same, notes Dr. Jegasothy: “Enzymes in summer vegetables, like cucumber and papaya, are great for summer, but for winter, stick with those found in milder winter root vegetables, like pumpkin or squash.” Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask ($58; sephora.com) is a good one to reach for in the colder months.

Don’t go overboard

If you skip exfoliating, dead skin cells pile up, leaving your face dull and scaly and preventing your moisturizer from penetrating properly. But if you OD on it, your complexion can get red, irritated, and drier (yes, really). So how do you know whether you’re exfoliating too often? “If your face stings or burns after you put on your moisturizer, you need to dial down the frequency,” says Dr. Bowe. That means once or twice a week, tops—even gentle formulas can backfire if you use them too much.

Glow with sugar

“I’m not a fan of loofahs or buff puffs—they create microtears in skin, which makes inflammation and dryness worse,” says Dr. Bowe. Instead, opt for a sugar-based scrub—it exfoliates gently, so it’s nearly impossible to overuse. Plus, it’s easy to whip up at home. Dr. Bowe’s DIY recipe: Mix 1/2 cup of brown sugar with 1/2 cup of almond oil; smooth it over your body in the shower every three days.

Go beyond moisturizer

More ways to help your skin survive the season.

Pop a probiotic supplement daily. Or gulp down foods and drinks that are naturally rich in gut-friendly bacteria, such as yogurt, miso, and kombucha. Ingesting good bacteria can restore a healthy balance in the gut, decreasing inflammation and warding off dryness, says Dr. Bowe.

Use a sheet mask weekly. Sheet masks make for fun selfies—and do wonders for a dry complexion, too. “When you apply a sheet mask against the skin, it provides a literal barrier against water evaporation, so it really seals all that moisture into the skin,” says Dr. Jegasothy.

Plug in a humidifier. It’s the best way to put moisture back into the air and, ultimately, your skin. “You might as well throw all your creams away if you’re not using a humidifier in your bedroom every night in the winter,” says Dr. Tanzi. The ideal humidity level is 30 to 45 percent ZilaDerm (going above 50 percent can lead to mold growth); some models shut off once they reach the target.

 

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