Winter weather isn't just chilly -- it's often downright arid. The harsh weather conditions and low humidity can strip skin of moisture, rendering it dry, scaly, and itchy. Resist the urge to reach for pricey creams and serums, though, and instead heed these tips to take care of your skin on the cheap this winter.
Dry skin and chapped lips are often the result of prolonged exposure to a cold, dry environment. When temperatures dip and the wind picks up, gloves, scarves, and even inexpensive sunglasses protect against freezing, dry air. If you have sensitive skin, try to wear only smooth, natural fibers and avoid potentially irritating fabrics such as wool near the face.
As the temperature drops, humidity tends to do the same, and the dry air leeches moisture from skin. Indoor heat sources only make matters worse, so save some energy by setting the thermostat as low as you can bear and use a humidifier in the rooms where you spend the most time. A good cheap humidifier might cost $50 or so but should last far longer than a jar of lotion. An even cheaper alternative: Simply place bowls of water around the home. The water will slowly evaporate and add moisture to the air. Houseplants with large leaves also boost the moisture level around them.
The body produces oils to lubricate skin and prevent over-drying, but overzealous washing strips away those oils. Limit yourself to one short bath or shower a day, using mild soap. When washing your face, avoid astringents and cleansers that contain alcohol unless you have acne-prone skin. Although hot water may appeal on a cold morning, dermatologists suggest bathing in warm or cool water instead.
Lathering up in the shower may seem like the best way to get clean, but the sodium lauryl sulfate in many face and body washes is known to irritate and strip skin of moisture. Cleansers marketed as "soap-free" or "sulfate-free" could relieve excessively dry skin.
Apply lotion immediately after washing hands or stepping out of the shower to lock in moisture. It also helps to keep the bathroom door closed to maintain high humidity while applying lotion or cream. Pay particular attention to vulnerable body parts such as hands, feet, elbows, and knees. Make moisturizer more effective by exfoliating skin every week to get rid of dead cells that sit on the top layer of the skin, making it flaky and rough.
Many homemade moisturizer recipes call for ingredients that may already be in the kitchen and promise savings over store-bought creams. Search sites such as Pinterest for a DIY skin-care regimen. If you'd rather buy cheap moisturizer than make it, a key ingredient to look for is glycerin, which attracts and locks in moisture.
Healthy oils serve a variety of purposes but have one unique, cheap benefit: They are excellent skin moisturizers. While olive oil is one of the most popular, grapeseed, avocado, and sweet almond oil are regularly praised for their moisture-locking properties. Like lotions and cream-based moisturizers, oils work best when applied to damp skin, preferably after showering.
The body's natural instinct to relieve dry lips is to lick them. However convenient, repeated licking only dries out lips even more. The acids and enzymes in saliva actually cause the moisture already on the lips to evaporate. Instead, keep handy a lip balm that doesn't contain menthol or camphor, two drying agents.
Like lotions and oils that go on the body, what goes in the body affects how the skin appears. Winter is the ideal time to consume foods such as olive oil, which contains a compound called squalene that protects the skin from ultraviolet rays and moisture loss. Salmon, almonds, and sweet potatoes are other foods recommended by beauty experts to nourish and replenish moisture in the skin.