Getting, keeping soft and supple skin, even in the skin-drying months of winter 

Skin: It's out largest organ, comes in all colors, is popular with psychopaths the world over and needs help in winter.

Cold temperatures and driving winds mix with moisture-sapping home heating to equal quite a conundrum for healthy skin in the winter months. It leaves most of us resembling a hybrid of dried-out King Tut and sunlight-deprived Dracula by the time March rolls around, which, oddly, has never become the "it" look for spring.


"Constant changes in temperatures " cold outside to warm inside, dry heat to cold " leads to drying, cracking skin," said Rachel Courtney, a master aesthetician with Three Graces European Day Spa and Elio Men's Day Spa in Oklahoma City.

"Winter air has less humidity," said Courtney, who has been a practicing aesthetician for 10 years. That leads to water being drawn from skin, which she said breaks the lipid structure and makes it harder to retain much needed moisture.

That lack of water means a whole lot of nastiness to skin, hair and even nails. The visuals aren't pretty: cracking, scaling, peeling, inflammation " not exactly descriptions to get excited about.

The most common skin condition Dr. Renee Grau, a board-certified dermatologist with Saints Dermatology, sees in her practice is eczema, but winter can also worsen other skin conditions. Skin gets irritated and itchy, which she said can start a scratch-and-itch cycle that can actually modify skin and become chronic.

But, it's not just itchiness people have to contend with.

"Skin is your barrier," Grau said, "and if it's dry, it cracks and breaks open, leaving it open to allergens and bacteria."

She likened skin to a grape and a raisin. Moisture helps skin remain pliable and flexible. Take that moisture out and you're left a dry, wrinkly mess.

Same goes for nails. Cuticles and nails can dry out just like skin, said Cydney Stephens Lee, owner and manager of Vivian Gilbert Salon in Norman, and this can lead to splitting and breaking.

So, yummy all around, then.

But, all is not lost. Winter-weary skin can be prevented, soothed and even saved.

"Your products should change like your clothing changes: heavier in the winter, lighter in the summer," Courtney said.

That means staying away from harsh soaps and, Grau added, taking warm " not hot " showers or baths. She said a humidifier in the home may also help add a bit of moisture to the air, but the machines need to be cleaned once a week or they start to get moldy.

Above all, however, the trick to beating winter skin is to drink a lot of water and moisturize like crazy. Grau said the best time to moisturize is right out of the shower, when skin is patted dry, but still a bit damp. Her favorite lotion to keep skin supple in the colder months is CeraVe Cream. For lips, she adds a bit of Aquaphor to the cream.

"Moisturizer does many things," Courtney said. "It enables lost water to be replaced."

At Three Graces and Elio, a large menu of treatments is available for both men and women to get skin back into shape. Body scrubs, pumpkin peels and microderms slough off dry skin and paraffins and other conditioning services revitalize. To keep that healthy glow out of the salon, the spa also sells Jurlique and Menaji for men.

At Vivian Gilbert Salon, Lee offers natural manicures and pedicures that exfoliate and moisturize. The services focus on hands " which can be a first telltale sign of aging " feet, nails and cuticles.

To take home, Lee also sells OPI scrubs and lotions and a cuticle oil by Essie. Those products can help extend a manicure or pedicure for weeks at home.

But, instead of playing catch-up, it's better to be preventative.

"In the end," Lee said, "it is actually less maintenance to maintain your hands and feet all year round than trying to get them back in shape at the beginning of spring."

The same can be said for skin. Take care of it throughout the year, especially in harsh winter weather, and it'll return the favor. "Jenny Coon Peterson

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