Flaky faces, lizard shins and sanitiser-abused hands are common complaints during winter. The problem is not purely weather-induced but, rather, a result of trying to warm ourselves up, says specialist dermatologist Dr. Ryan De Cruz.

“In winter, as the ambient temperature starts to fall, we naturally crank up our heaters and carefully temperature-control our internal environment,” says Dr. De Cruz. Add to this a steep decline in humidity levels and you have a recipe for dehydration, of the most irritating sort: “dull, scaly, sensitive and more irritation-prone skin.”

I asked the kind doctor for his best tricks to combating this inevitable moisture-suck, and threw in a few product recommendations that I know will help.

1. Mum was right. You should dress in layers.

Rather than sitting on top of your blow heater becoming progressively desiccated, just wear a few more clothing layers. It sounds simple, because it is. Each layer of clothing traps your own body heat, acting as an insulator. Not only will you avoid the moisture-leaching effects of artificial heating, you’ll also save on energy. Personally I’m a big fan of Uniqlo Heat Tech thermals. I have about ten of their long sleeve tops that I wear layered underneath merino wool or cashmere jumpers. Toasty.

2. If you must use heating, keep it under 22 degrees Celsius.

“It’s critical to avoid over-heating our houses and office-spaces,” says Dr. De Cruz. “To avoid excessive drying of the skin, keep the ambient temperature between 20 and 22, and perhaps consider an old-fashioned humidifier to return some moisture to the air – your skin will thank you for it.” I like the aesthetically pleasing portable humidifier from Eastside Boutique.

3. Keep the shower temp – and time – down, too.

“Hot water can compromise our skin barrier,” confirms Dr. De Cruz. “Excessive heating promotes ‘transepidermal water loss’, the process in which water evaporates from our skin, leaving it dehydrated. The hotter the shower, the more likely our skin will be left dry and scaly.” So keep it short and sharp. I keep track of things (and play my podcasts) with the Typo Wireless Shower Speaker.

4. Lather up with soap-free wash…

“Soap, excessive washing, acidic and alkaline agents all break down the skin barrier by dissolving the cement that holds our skin together,” explains Dr. De Cruz, recommending that you always opt for soap-free cleansers that respect the skin’s natural pH. Our pick? CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. It’s gentle, non-foaming, fragrance-free and formulated with 3 skin-loving Ceramides.

5. And slather while your skin is still damp.

The trick to super soft skin head-to-toe? Apply your moisturiser as quickly as you can to damp skin after you step out of the bath or shower. “Applying Ceramide-based moisturisers immediately after showers has been proven to increase skin hydration, as it traps in water molecules that hang around the skin immediately after showering or bathing.” I adore CeraVe’s Moisturising Lotion as it’s lightweight yet packs a powerful quenching punch with an infusion of Ceramides + Hyaluronic Acid to create hydrated, healthy-looking skin. It absorbs swiftly and comes in a pump-pack for a speedy-application.

6. For moisture plus: team Hyaluronic Acid with Ceramides.

“Two scientifically-proven superstar skin hydrators are Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides. Put them together and you’ve got a match made in skincare heaven. Hyaluronic Acid is a ‘humectant’ that is a molecule that helps draw water to it, and holds it in the skin,” says Dr De Cruz. “Like a sponge that holds water both within skin cells, and between them.” On the other hand, Ceramides are long chain lipids (fats), and are major components of skin’s cement, which helps form our natural skin barrier. One product that combines the two ingredients expertly well is CeraVe’s acclaimed Moisturising Cream – this is the perfect hydrator to use on both your face and body to prevent extreme dryness.

7. Cut the supplements and look to food sources

Instead of splashing out on pricey collagen supplements Dr. De Cruz insists the answer to happy, hydrated skin can be found in your diet. “I do not promote collagen supplements to be taken orally. There is no good evidence that consuming collagen (over and above normal dietary sources) directly stimulates skin cells to produce more collagen,” he says. “Foods such as green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit are high in antioxidants, as well as critical nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin B5. Legumes, nuts, avocados and certain fish are high in natural omega-3 fatty acid, which benefits both the skin and heart health.”

8. Washing hands? Antibacterial soaps aren’t necessary.

Dr. De Cruz has seen many a casualty from the dramatic increase in hand washing due to COVID-19, “Every day I see dry skin, hand dermatitis, cracked and bleeding fingers due to excessive hand washing and inadequate hand-moisturising.” He stresses that soap-free handwash is just as effective as the antibacterial options. “Studies have proven that it is the 20 seconds of running water that is the most important aspect when cleansing, and that a soap-free cleanser is just as effective as a detergent soap,” he says. And don’t forget to apply a good lipid-based hand moisturizer after washing and drying hands. Our pick? CeraVe Reparative Hand Cream is satisfyingly unctuous yet readily absorbed. It helps maintain the natural protective skin barrier, and doesn’t leave a greasy film on your keyboard or your steering wheel, yet instantly hydrates and soothes parched paws.

Story by Sigourney Cantelo. Photography by Alice Mahran. In association with CeraVe.

CeraVe is available exclusively at Chemist Warehouse nationally.

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