Winter in New York City is unforgiving, especially for your skin. There are the temperature variables (cold, drying winds outside and hot, dry air inside). Then there’s the punishing holiday-party schedule (alcohol, rich food, not enough sleep, situational smoking). And that’s on top of the usual airborne miasma of vehicle emissions, particle pollution, and ozone. (According to the American Lung Association, New York is the ninth-worst ozone-polluted metropolitan area.) It all combines to put skin, hair, and nails in a constant state of seasonal stressed-out flux. Combating this is cheaper and easier than you might think, though—all the products mentioned below are readily available at your local Walgreens, CVS, or Duane Reade.
1. Dry, rough feet. Lac-Hydrin Five ($13.99 at Walgreens.), an OTC alpha-hydroxy-acid lotion, has 12 percent lactic acid. Rub it on cracked, callused heels nightly, and wash it off in the morning. As the days go by, the thickened areas will soften and can be pared down with pumice. To make it work faster, try it overnight with cotton socks once a week.
2. Chapped cheeks. Move to a non-soap alternative for face washing (squeaky clean means your skin has been stripped of its natural moisturizers). Try Cetaphil facial cleanser ($8.39 at CVS), which is pH neutral and cleans skin while allowing it to retain its own moisture.
3. Itchy skin. There’s one way to deal with weather-related eczema: moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. As a rule, ointments are better moisturizers than creams, which are better than lotions. Gels are drying. The best moisturizer is petroleum jelly, but its greasiness is off-putting. Try CeraVe cream ($15.79 at CVS), a new product that replenishes ceramides, which are an essential component to your skin’s moisture barrier. Aquaphor ($17.99 at Walgreens), Aveeno Ultra-Calming ($15.49 at Duane Reade), and Eucerin ($8.99 at Duane Reade) creams are also good.
4. Irritated face. For those used to monthly facial peels or microdermabrasion, winter weather may make your skin more sensitive and easily irritated. Mix a few teaspoons of baking soda (Arm & Hammer’s is 59 cents at Rite-Aid) with Cetaphil, and gently scrub your face. Baking-soda crystals are fine enough to give you a mild exfoliation.
If you’re waxing or threading your lip or eyebrows, bring Visine ($4.39 at Duane Reade), which is a vasoconstrictor. Saturate a cotton ball with it and swipe the area immediately after the treatment to reduce redness.
5. Fragile hair. Don’t leave the house with wet hair, obviously—though blow-drying leaves hair overprocessed. Use a shampoo—Dove Beautifully Clean Shampoo ($4.49 at CVS ) is good—with humectants, which hold onto moisture.
Use a deep conditioner once a week, or Alberto VO5’s hot-oil treatment ($4.29 at Walgreens) once a month, to restore moisture.
For a month, take one daily tablet (1,000 mcg.) of Biotin, known for its benefits for hair (Nature’s Bounty tablets, $8.29 for 1,000, at Rite-Aid), then two tablets a day for a month, then three a day for a month. You’ll notice a difference not only in your hair’s growth but also in its health by the time spring rolls around.
6. Post-party puff. Although they’re used to treat a condition most people would rather not think about, Tucks Pads ($8.29 for 100 at CVS) are a quick cure for under-eye puffiness. They contain witch hazel, an anti-inflammatory; swipe with them to help decrease the morning-after look.
Kavita Mariwalla is a resident at the Yale Department of Dermatology.