You’re not the only one going through moisturizer by the gallon throughout the winter months. And while you have no control over dry air or the drop in temps, little things you do (or don’t do) every day could actually be drying out your skin even more.
Look out for these 10 skin-sabotaging habits, and consider making a few tiny changes to relieve your itchy outer layer.
Your Showers Are Hot, Hot, Hot
A steamy shower after a long day can help you relax—it’s just not so great for your skin. “We may like how long, hot showers feel, but they wreak havoc on our skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. “Hot water can strip oil from the skin’s surface and disrupt the skin barrier. This is made even worse when you have a long exposure.
Your shower temp should be warm but comfortable, says Zeichner. You should be able to walk right into the shower without having to react or adjust to the water temperature.
You Don’t Drink Enough H2O
Inadequate agua equals sad skin. “Not drinking enough water or fluids can lead to crepey-looking skin,” says Michelle Dudash, R.D.N., dietitian and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families. Your skin cells, like all cells, are made up largely of water, and need that water to function properly, according to the University of Wisconsin.
Make sure you’re well-hydrated throughout the day by taking a good look at the color of your pee. “A pale lemonade color is the goal, says Dudash. “Dark yellow means you’re dehydrated.” If you feel thirsty at any point, that’s a sign that you’re already mildly dehydrated and need to drink up.
If you’re not a fan of plain ol’ water, try tea or high-water content foods like watermelon, cucumbers, grapes, or oranges. (Soup counts, too!)
You Skimp On Lotion
Some of us slather on lotion every single day without fail, while others just can’t commit. The surprising truth is that not everyone truly needs moisturizer, says Zeichner. “If your skin is visibly dry, peeling, or itchy, though, your skin may need extra attention,” he says.
Zeichner recommends looking for one or more of the following buzz-worthy ingredients the next time you’re hunting for a new bottle of lotion: petroleum jelly (which creates a seal over the skin to prevent water loss, called an ‘occlusive’), humectants like hyaluronic acid (which help draw water to the skin surface from its deeper layers), and emollients like oils (which smooth the cracks between cells on the skin surface). Ceramides (a type of ingredient which help to repair the skin barrier) are also becoming increasingly popular in moisturizer formulas.
You Use Body Lotion On Your Face—Or Vice Versa
We get it, desperate times call for desperate measures. But the words ‘face lotion’ or ‘body lotion’ are on that bottle for a reason: because products for the face and body are typically formulated differently. “Facial products tend to have a lighter consistency and may be specially designed as not to break you out in pimples,” Zeichner explains. Sure, you could slather your face cream all over your body, but since facial products are designed to target specific facial concerns—and are more expensive—your wallet won’t thank you. Meanwhile, body lotions are more easily spread over large areas without losing effectiveness.
To get the most bang for your buck, follow those labels and use the right products on the right parts.
Your Diet Is Lame
Not getting enough vitamin C or omega-3 fatty acids may leave you with drier skin. “Omega-3 fatty acids support the health of cell membranes, which provides moisture to and protects the skin cells,” explains Dudash. Meanwhile, vitamin C plays a role in the production of collagen, a protein involved in skin cell structure, which is also important for maintaining moisture, Dudash says.
Omega-3-rich foods include salmon, cod, walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds. For vitamin C, turn to fruits and vegetables like grapefruit, kiwi, and bell pepper—a serving of each packs a full daily dose of the must-have antioxidant, says Dudash.
Your Soap Is Too Harsh
That old school bar soap isn’t doing your skin any favors. Traditional soaps often contain harsh ingredients known as alkaline surfactants, says Zeichner. “These substances can disrupt the pH of the skin and affect its moisture barrier,” he adds.
Look for bar soaps and body washes with moisturizing formulas that don’t contain any harsh ingredients, such as sodium laurel sulfate (SLS), suggests Zeichner. To avoid scanning the ingredient list for complicated chemical names, go for products labeled “gentle skin cleanser,” “hydrating skin cleanser” or “soap free.”
You Go Too Heavy On The Booze
Who knew that throwing back a drink or two could take a toll on your skin? “Alcohol is a diuretic, causing you to lose more water,” Dudash says. As you now know, dehydration is no bueno for your skin.
Consider your complexion yet another reason to alternate drinks with water when you’re out on the town.
You Crank Up The Heat At Home
Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you sit around shivering during the nightly news. Take note, though, that the dry air from your heater can put additional stress on your skin barrier and even further the loss of hydration and dryness, says Zeichner.
The fix here is simple: Power up your humidifier and put it in your bedroom to pump some moisture back into the air.
You Don’t Get Enough Shuteye
Night cream or not, sleep is an important part of maintaining healthy skin. “Don’t underestimate the power of sleep,” Dudash says. “It’s your body’s time to repair and rejuvenate, which can directly affect your skin.”
We know it’s easier said than done, but shoot for seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night.
You Exfoliate Too Often
When you notice peeling or flaking, it’s natural to want to reach for a scrub. But hold up. “Instead of exfoliating, first try to recognize that your skin is lacking hydration,” says Zeichner. Exfoliating may actually further irritation and dryness. “Rather than exfoliating, which can dry out your skin layer and lead to small cracks and further loss of hydration, apply extra moisturizer to address the dryness,” he says. More often than not, that peeling or flakiness will improve and you won’t even need to exfoliate.
To avoid unnecessary irritation, limit exfoliation to no more than twice a week.