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Cleansing can cure weather damage

By Al Varela

Dear Al: I often get red patches on my face, which seem to appear out of nowhere during the winter months. What can I do to combat this seasonal problem?

What you are describing is a problem experienced by many people during the winter season after being exposed to cold dry air outdoors and dry heat indoors. The extreme temperature changes can have a dehydrating effect on the skin which can cause the red, dry, flaking areas you are experiencing.

Correcting the problem usually involves proper cleansing and moisturizing using products that will not worsen the condition. It is important to avoid gel cleansers and bar soaps as they can add to the dryness. Products with perfumes and alcohol will also cause additional irritation.

Start by using a very gentle water soluble cream cleanser to work into the skin. A slight stinging may occur. This is normal because of the excessive dryness and should subside as you cleanse. Do not use anything abrasive for this procedure such as a washcloth or sponge. Be sure to avoid hot water while rinsing. Pat the skin dry using a soft towel and never use a rubbing or wiping motion.

Follow this procedure with a mild toner that is completely free of alcohol or witch hazel. These two ingredients can also cause irritation and dryness. Avoid any toner where the label does not specifically state that it is alcohol free. I have seen great results with the alcohol free Floral Toner by Decleor since it evens out the porosity of the skin and allows the moisturizers that follow to be absorbed evenly.

Finally, use a moisturizer that is light weight and free of any perfume. This will help you to start the healing process for your skin. People mistakenly think that using the heaviest, thickest cream is better, but the reverse often happens. These moisturizers may cause clogged pores.

Continue these steps for at least three days before introducing a gentle exfoliating cream to your routine. Exfoliating should only be done once a week.

You will notice the difference in the appearance and texture of your skin fairly soon. After all, when you look in the mirror you don't want to see red. You want to see beautiful skin looking back at you.

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