Winter weather wreaks havoc on skin, says Dr. Ron Vender, assistant clinical professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. “Cold winds and extreme temperatures can dry out your skin. Snow is also a factor. It reflects the sun’s rays which can cause a sunburn.”
The first step to getting your skin ready for summer is to exfoliate. Fiona Dawson, spa director of the Stillwater Water Spa Hyatt Regency in Calgary, recommends an all-over body scrub to remove dead skin and get a fresh, healthy glow.
“People tend to moisturize during the dry months,” she says. “But you won’t see the effects of moisturizing if you do not exfoliate first.”
At the Stillwater, all-over body scrubs and hydrating Kaolin moisture masques are the most popular treatment to make skin supple for summer. Dawson suggests using a body scrub once a month in the shower and following-up with a luxurious lotion if your skin is very dry. “Body butters work really well because they are oily—some people also blend oil into body cream to give it a greater concentration of moisture,” she says.
There are other areas of the body that also require some tender loving care after a cold winter. Here are a few tips for getting the rest of your skin in great shape:
Knees and elbows
It’s the hard-to-reach, problem areas on your body that tend to be the worst culprits of dry, itchy skin. Dawson recommends using a gentle exfoliating cleanser or a loofah in the shower and applying a rich moisturizer, like body butter or oil, to the knees and elbows.
Your hands can easily become irritated when exposed to cold temperatures and wind. During winter months, Dr. Vender suggests avoiding harsh hand cleansers and frequently moisturizing right after washing. Try a cream that is made especially for dry hands, says Dawson.
If your nails are brittle or peel, wear cotton-lined, rubber gloves when immersing in water. For a deep-moisturizing treatment, apply a hand cream before washing dishes—the hot water will accelerate the cream’s penetration into the skin.
Dr. Vender also advises keeping your hands covered with a minimum SPF 30 sunscreen to avoid signs of aging like sun spots and wrinkles. Remember to reapply sunscreen after washing your hands.
After being stuck in thick socks and boots all winter, your feet may require the most pampering. Dead skin cells thicken and harden on problem areas like the ball of the foot, the inside of the toes and the back of the heel.
Dawson says a pre-summer pedicure is always a good way to get your feet in great shape. “Start going to an esthetician and get a really good pedicure to remove as much of the calluses as possible,” she says. Once you have it down to a manageable level, use a pumice stone or paddle daily in the shower to keep feet smooth.
Apply a moisturizer meant specifically for feet. Dr. Vender recommends a cream that contains salicylic acid or urea. For an intense moisture treatment, Dawson suggests creaming-up, then wrapping your feet in plastic or Saran Wrap and covering with socks to seal in the moisture.
Of course, once your feet have been buffed to perfection you’ll want to upkeep them during the summer months. Continue to moisturize daily, since sandals also dry out your feet because the skin is exposed. Make sure to cover the tops of your tootsies with SPF 30 to avoid sunburn. And use a light foot powder or baby powder if you tend to sweat during warm weather.