Winter can bring a flattering flush to your cheeks--or a whole lot of dryness and sensitivity. Calm things down with these pro tricks.If you're suddenly plagued by tight, ruddy, über-sensitive skin, that's just the season working its magic. "Everyone's face gets drier in the winter, and when skin loses a lot of moisture, it's much more susceptible to inflammation and irritation," says Mona Gohara, M.D., an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. Plus, a few cold-weather culprits can make redness worse. There's windburn, for starters, which can be soothed with a lotion that contains an anti- inflammatory ingredient like feverfew (found in Aveeno Ultra Calming Daily Moisturizer SPF 15 ) or licorice root (which is in Eucerin Redness Relief Daily Perfecting Lotion SPF 15 ). To stave it off on bitter-cold days, pat a little Vaseline on your cheeks. Then there's sunburn--yes, even in January. "Snow reflects 80 percent of the sun's rays, so it's like standing by the ocean," Gohara says. Make it your M.O. to wear broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher on your face every single day. If none of that helps, read on.
Got red patches that never go away?
"You could have rosacea, a condition in which the skin's blood vessels are always dilated, causing chronic redness and sensitivity," says Meghan O'Brien, M.D., a clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. One in 10 American women has rosacea, "and it may be genetic, so if one of your parents had it, you're likely to," she says. But you can manage it much better than Mom or Dad did. When rosacea-prone skin gets dry, it becomes even more vulnerable to irritants, so switch to more moisturizing skin care in the winter. Use a soap-free, creamy face wash (try Eau Thermale Avène Gentle Milk Cleanser) followed by a redness-reducing moisturizer, like the Aveeno or Eucerin ones we mentioned earlier. At night, slather on a thick cream that contains ceramides, which strengthen skin so it's less easily irritated. (We like Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Lift and Firm Night Cream.) If your rosacea doesn't improve, a doctor can prescribe Mirvaso, a new topical gel that's covered by many insurance plans. "It constricts blood vessels to calm rosacea redness for up to 12 hours," says dermatologist Ava Shamban, M.D., author of Heal Your Skin.
Whether you have rosacea or not, experts also suggest using makeup that's hypoallergenic and fragrance-free--or try mineral formulas, which are gentler overall. A peach or bronzy blush will counteract red cheeks, and don't be afraid to go bold on your lips. "A strong color, even a red one (like CoverGirl LipPerfection lipstick in Hot), will shift the focus off your skin," says makeup artist Kimara Ahnert, owner of the Kimara Ahnert Makeup Studio in New York City.
Know the triggers
"Any time your face gets very warm, like during a hot shower or a vigorous workout, it can spark a rosacea flare-up," Shamban explains. Certain foods and drinks, including anything spicy, caffeinated, or boozy, can also set things off. Fear not: You don't have to cut out coffee and cocktails. "Just suck on an ice cube immediately after engaging in a trigger," says Gohara. "It'll bring down the redness right away." Another cost-free fix? Stress-reducing exercises like meditation and deep breathing, which a number of rosacea patients report help diminish symptoms like flushing. We all could use an excuse to slow down and take a breather more often; do it for your skin and your sanity.