March 21 marked the official start of Spring, but surprisingly, Winter did not suddenly end. It’s still cold here in New York City. It’s incredibly windy and very dry. It’s been a dry Winter already and my skin can’t take much more of this.
When I was a little kid, the skin around my fingernails would start to peel in Winter. This was in the 1980s, and my family still hadn’t adapted to the idea that men could use mousse, bottled water was years away, and facials only happened in primetime soaps. My father had a solution, however, he gave me Corn Husker’s Lotion to use. Corn Husker’s Lotion is what real farm people use to combat the chafing effects of – you guessed it – husking corn. It was the real, non-quiche eating man’s solution to mosturizing.
These days, everybody, except my dad, mosturizes. Everywhere you look, there are new lotions, creams, and butters. What products work and what do they do? I spoke to two dermatologists to find out. Dr. Joshua Fox, Official Spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatologists takes a practical approach to preventing and curing dry skin. Winter air is dryer than other seasons’, so Dr. Fox suggests using a humidifier in the house. This is where New York City tenement housing becomes a bargain. Sure you’re paying $2500 a month for a studio that won’t fit you and your shoes at the same time, but that steam heat you’re getting from the radiator that was installed in 1910 is going to keep you dermis hydrated all Winter long.
Shower less. Bathing dries out your skin, so don’t bathe as often during the winter as you do during the high humidity months of Summer. Try bathing every other day, or if your skin is still suffering, twice a week. If, like me, you need to shower every day because you work out and sweat profusely, don’t use soap everytime. And, if your skin feels dry, moisturize.
What should you moisturize with? According to Dr. Fox, use emolients (fancy word for lotions) that have lots of fats in them. Fats meaning vegetable oils, like those found in Shea Butter and Almond Oil, or mineral oils like those found in Petroleum Jelly, aka Vaseline. Everything else is just marketing.
According to Celebrity Dermatologist Dr. N. V. Perricone, proprieter of a brand new Lifestyle Center on Madison Avenue, there is a real reason to look at skin care differently today than twenty years ago. “We really do need to think about how the environment has changed since the days of our ancestors,” says Dr. Perricone. “With the increase in pollution, thinning of the earth’s protective ozone layer, and even the depletion of nutrients from our soils: essentially our “free radicals” in the environment have dramatically increased, while our sources of antioxidants have been compromised. We need to nourish our skin with antioxidants and vitamins that will sweep up those free radicals before they have a chance to damage healthy cells.” The important instructions hidden in that quote are to use moisturizers that contain antioxidants and vitamins.
Both dermatologists had some interesting information about the differences between men’s skin and women’s. Apparently, women are thinner skinned. Duh. Also, men tend to have more hair, and therefore more hair folecules. Hair folecules contain natural oils, oils keep skin from getting as dry. So, us guys have all of the advantages. Thicker more oily skin doesn’t wrinkle as much and doesn’t get as dry. Finally scientific proof that we age better than women do. Maybe next time I should interview some female dermatologists.
Still, everyone is different, so you need to pay attention to what your skin is telling you. When your body needs water, your mouth feels dry. Likewise, when you skin needs hydration. There is also a logical reason for your face and hands needing more attention than the rest of your body. These areas of skin are more often exposed to the elements. Unless, like Michael Jackson, you where a mask every time you go outside, your face is more exposed to winter weather than your chest is. Dr. Perricone suggests moisturizing every time you wash your face, remember – washing causes dryness. Dr. Perricone also suggests using different moisturizers for your face and eyes. The skin around the eyes is the thinnest on the body. Dr. Fox says that again, this is mostly marketing. While ten percent of us might have skin so sensitive that using a specific eye crème is essential, most of us can use the same lotion all over. “Most of the time eye cream is no different. It’s just another marketing ploy. Except, if you’re not careful, the wrong moisturizer might burn. The skin around the eyes is more sensitive, but if you put a little moisturizer around the eyes, it shouldn’t make a difference.” He suggests this revolutionary idea, if the moisturizer burns, don’t use it.