Winter skin care on a budget: treating dry skin, dandruff and more

Taylor Burnfield

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Editor’s note: This article is meant to be informational and is not intended to give medical advice or diagnose medical problems. Always check with your doctor before making any major changes to your skin care routine. 

     It is officially December in Colorado, which means snow, dry air and harsh winds. The changing weather can wreak havoc on your skin.  

     I am originally from Texas and moved to Colorado three years ago. When I experienced my first Colorado winter, I had to alter my skin care routine. As a licensed esthetician (skin care specialist), I knew how to adapt my skin care routine to this new climate.  

     Skin care does not have to be complicated or expensive. There are a few easy changes you can make to your skin care routine to solve common winter skin care problems: 

     Dry skin  

     The outermost layer of human skin is covered in something called the lipid barrier. This barrier, made up of fats, protects our skin from dryness, water loss and some skin diseases.  

     The lipid barrier can become damaged due to winter climates, sun damage, harsh cleansers, over-exfoliating or health problems. If your lipid barrier is damaged, you might notice that your skin is dry, rough and irritated. 

     The best way to repair the lipid barrier is to use skin care products that contain ceramides. Ceramides are fats that are also naturally found in our lipid barrier. 

     The brand CeraVe was developed with input from dermatologists and uses ceramides in nearly all of their products. CeraVe is inexpensive and can be found in almost any drugstore.  

     Another approach to restoring your lipid barrier is to use oils on the skin. Biochemist Diana Howard recommends using camellia japonica oilchia seed oil or tamanu oil to restore the skin’s lipid barrier.  


     Dandruff is an annoying problem that many people deal with and can worsen during wintertime when harsh climates and indoor heating can cause irritation to the scalp.  

     There is a misconception that dandruff is caused by a dry scalp, but the truth is that dandruff is caused by an over-production of oil on the scalp.  

     When the scalp becomes too oily, a yeast called Malassezia grows on the scalp. This yeast causes the scalp to become inflamed, thus producing dandruff.  

     The best way to prevent dandruff from developing in the first place is to wash your hair frequently. How often you should wash your hair depends on the natural oiliness of your hair.  

     In recent years, it has become popular to skip washing your hair in favor of dry shampoos, but this will only worsen dandruff, according to dermatologist Andrea Suarez, known as “Dr. Dray” on YouTube. 

     Suarez recommends using shampoos that contain salicylic acid or zinc. She suggests using Neutrogena’s T-Sal Shampoo or Jason’s Dandruff Relief Shampoo. She also suggests avoiding shampoos with fragrances as these can irritate the scalp.  

     Suarez says that regularly exfoliating the scalp can also help prevent dandruff. There are several scalp exfoliators on the market that are inexpensive.  

     Chapped lips 

     Chapped lips can happen any time of the year, but they are more common during the winter when cold, dry air irritates the sensitive skin on your lips.  

   Many lip products currently on the market make chapped lips worse, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Assocation (AAD).  

     Some popular lip care products contain irritating ingredients such as essential oils, artificial fragrances and even alcohol.  

     The AAD recommends treating dry, chapped lips with Vaselineceramides or shea butter. The AAD also states, “If your lips are very dry and cracked, try a thick ointment, such as white petroleum jelly. Ointment seals in water longer than waxes or oils.” 


     You may not give much thought to the skin inside your nose, but you probably should. 

     Nosebleeds are common during wintertime, especially in a dry climate like Colorado. They are usually the result of the delicate skin inside your nose becoming too dry, causing the nasal membranes to crack and bleed.  

     According to the University of Michigan Health System, the best way to prevent nosebleeds from occurring is to regularly use a saline nasal spray. The spray will moisturize the inside of your nose, preventing the nasal membranes from becoming too dry and breaking.  

     You can also coat the inside of your nose using Vaseline on a Q-tip.  

     Keep in mind that there are other causes of nosebleeds besides dryness. So, if nosebleeds are a frequent problem for you then you may need to see your doctor.  

     Sun damage 

     Some people believe that they only need to wear sunscreen during the summer. However, the sun’s ultraviolet rays are still present during the winter months, even on cloudy days.  

     According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Snow reflects up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV light, so the rays hit you twice, further increasing your risk of skin cancer and premature aging.” 

     Sun damage is the main cause of skin aging and skin cancer, so it is important to always wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher.  

     If you do not like wearing sunscreen because it feels greasy or irritates your eyes, consider checking out the affordable CeraVe sunscreen, which is non-greasy and non-irritating. Neutrogena also has a great line of sunscreens that are inexpensive.   

     It is important to re-apply sunscreen at least every two hours if you are spending the day outside. If you wear makeup, there are cosmetics that contain SPF that can also be easily be re-applied throughout the day.  

     If you take nothing else from this article, please remember to wear sunscreen. The state of Colorado has the highest per-capita rate of skin cancer due to the high elevation and sunny climate. 

A young woman wearing winter clothing, standing in front of a pine tree.
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