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Wintercare for your skin and hair
Dr Parul Kolhe
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December 14, 2007

In a tropical country like ours, winters are a welcome respite from the usually blistering heat. But besides bringing a rose's bloom to your cheeks, the falling mercury is usually accompanied by a host of skin-related problems -- dryness, chapped lips, lustreless, brittle hair, cracked soles etc. Certain diseases like psoriasis and chronic eczemas also tend to worsen in this season due to the lack of humidity in the environment.

Here are a few tips, therefore, to keep your skin and hair healthy and glowing throughout winter: 

~ Avoid soaps as far as possible. Switch to a soap-free cleanser that will moisturise your skin as it cleans, like Cetaphil's cleansing lotion or Neutrogena Extra Gentle Cleanser. If you must use soap, opt for a moisturising bar that contains glycerine or aloevera (like Oilatum).

~ Taking an oil massage before bathing is a good way to soften the skin in winter. Use olive oil for best results. Warming it slightly before application improves spreadability. Leave it on for half an hour before washing it off.

~ Moisturisers must be applied directly onto moist skin after a bath, so that they can lock in the moisture. Pat your skin semi-dry with a towel after bathing and apply the lotion while you're still in the bathroom.

~ For the face, continue to use moisturisers with sunscreen. A drop in the environmental temperature does not mean that the ultraviolet rays of the sun do not exert an effect. UV damage is, in fact, more of a risk in winter, as we tend to spend long hours basking in the sunlight, enjoying its warmth. Reapply moisturisers every 3-4 hours, especially if you're in a closed, centrally-heated room.

~ For chapped lips, petroleum jelly or olive oil remains the best bet. Use glycerin diluted with rose water (in equal proportion) overnight to heal cracks. Carry a chapstick/ lip balm at all times and use it frequently. Lip-licking is a nervous habit which aggravates dry lips in winters -- avoid it. Tenderness or difficulty in opening the mouth may be an indication of infection -- consult a dermatologist in such cases.

~ For cracked soles, soak your feet for 10 minutes in warm water each night, pat dry and apply a mixture of Propysalic-E ointment and a moisturising cream. Cover feet with cling film or socks overnight. A word of caution -- badly cracked soles may be a sign of the disease psoriasis -- please consult a dermatologist if this is the case.

~ Hair tends to become frizzy and brittle in winter, especially if it's been treated (coloured, permed, rebonded etc). Intensive conditioning is needed. You can use warm oil before shampooing -- coconut, olive and jojoba oil are all good options. Wrap a hot towel around your head for half an hour after applying oil for deep conditioning. Use an intensive conditioner after shampooing like Loreal Professionnel Absolut Repair.

~ Drink plenty of water to keep your skin and hair hydrated. You'll have to make a conscious effort as thirst levels are low in winter and one often does not drink enough to hydrate the body sufficiently.

~ Eat nuts like almonds or walnuts or sunflower seeds (about 50 grams twice a week is enough). They provide you with essential fatty acids which are needed by the body to synthesise its natural oils.

~ Use a natural moisturising scrub -- grind sesame seeds and mix with milk or cream. Apply before your bath and scrub off for instantly smooth, moisturised, glowing skin.

Dr Parul S Kolhe is an MBBS, DDV and DNB in dermatology. 

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