Having a dry skin crisis? A six-point action plan

It’s that time of year. The heating’s been on for aeons, and it's left many of us with papery hands, flaky shins - and a face that looks plain duller than it did a few months back. (That’s because dry surface cells don’t bounce light back the same flattering way as when they’ve been quenched with moisture.) The first reason to give skin a nourishing drink is comfort, of course: the feeling of bliss as the moisture tops up our skin’s reservoirs. (You can almost hear it slurping up the goodness.) But there’s another, less widely-acknowledged reason for fixing dry skin: according to some experts, the problem’s actually linked with premature ageing. We all know that the paperiness, the tightness and the general thirstiness get worse through the decades – but a cause…? Apparently so. When skin’s moisturised properly, the cells ‘communicate’ better, helping to maintain optimum production of collagen and elastin. When that communication falters, production slows – and cell turnover slackens, too, from 28 to 40 days, so that skin appears even duller. (It’s a vicious circle…)

Slathering on moisture offers a triple-whammy, then: instantly improving the appearance of fine lines, but helping to prevent others from appearing – not just on the face, but from top-to-toe. And – the bonus - it just feels so g-o-o-d…

So: your six-point action plan to get you through even the driest skin S.O.S. starts here.

Dr organic Pomegranate Body ButterGive your body tons of TLC. Fact: it’s easy to forget about body skin that’s now lurking under opaques and polo-necks. But after each bath, pat skin dry and spend five minutes systematically massaging a richly-nourishing targeted body cream (or better still, a body butter) from top-to-toe. It’s important to pat skin dry first, because that whole idea of ‘locking in’ moisture by applying a cream on top is a beauty myth: it simply dilutes the product, so it doesn’t do its job so well. Our absolute faves include delightfully fresh-scented Dr Organic Aloe Body Butter, and the slightly ‘tangy’ Dr Organic Pomegranate Body Butter option, each £8.19 for 200 ml, as well as the wonderfully zesty Dr Organic Pomegranate Body Butter, £8.19 for 200 ml . (And at prices like these, you can afford to be super-lavish).

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 12.46.29More extravagantly, as a total treat - not just for the body but the senses - you can’t fail to fall for the Acqua di Parma Rosa Nobile Velvety Body Cream (it really is velvety!), £47 for 150 ml. Mitchell and Peach Body Cream, £36 for 180 ml (www.mitchellandpeach.com) is also pure skin bliss – and you’re helping to support local farmers, since the lavender for this grows in fields just outside Sevenoaks (one of my small pleasures in life is watching them turn purple, in August, from the window of a Hastings-bound train…) If you prefer something lighter, we're also very taken with The Body Shop Body Sorbet, £8 for 200 ml: nicely skin-quenching - and the white floral Moringa Body Sorbet smells sublime (it’s actually just like Byredo’s cult Flowerhead perfume – though sssssshhh, don’t tell a soul!)

Give skin a moisture double-whammy. When skin’s seriously papery, apply and allow the first layer of moisture to sink in, then target the areas which tend to be super-thirsty (elbows, knees, heels etc.) again. Or try Vaseline Intensive Rescue Relief and Balm, £5.55 for for 100 ml, which soothes even the severest dryness (and is said to allow even severely dry skin to repair itself within five days). You could alternatively apply a body oil of your choice over your body moisturiser, to ‘lock’ it in.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 12.38.02Don’t ignore feet. These particular extremities are so easy to ignore, but since happy feet make a happy walker (and autumn days just beg for a yomp), I’m a great believer in keeping them well-moisturised. Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Cracked Heel Foot Cream, £5 for 40 ml, rescues even rhino-hooves, but you might also like to try the nightly foot-slathering treat of Botanicals Foot Softening Balm, £15.95 for 50 g (www.botanicals.co.uk), which is naturally anti-bacterial and also great for hard skin.

Help your hands. Because of frequent washing, hands are where paperiness tends to show up first. (We always say that your hands can give your age away faster than a sneaky peek at your passport, too.) We're a big fan of carrying hand cream everywhere, in my bag: the dinky-sized tubes of both Crabtree & Evelyn Hand Cream, £5 for 25 g (in almost too many scents to count) are perfect, as is L’Occitane en Provence Shea Butter Hand Cream, £8 for 30 ml. You will also want to know about Lanolips Antibacterial Hand Cream, £8.99 for 50 ml, which kills over 99% of germs but is fantastically moisturising, unlike most anti-bug formulations.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 13.00.31Smooth in an oil. Personally, during winter, we ‘layer’ on facial oil under our usual moisturiser, which seems to work brilliantly for keeping skin plumped up, soft and comfy. (Interestingly, by contrast, if you apply oil over moisturiser, it makes skin feel greasy.) If you’re not a convert to facial oils, the legendary Clarins Blue Orchid Oil, £31.50 for 40 ml is ideal for dry skins, as is blissfully orange blossom-scented Aurelia Probiotic Skincare Cell Repair Night Oil, £45 for 50 ml. Jo is currently addicted to ESPA Optimal Skin ProSerum, £48 for 30 ml, which isn’t actually a serum: it’s a seriously rich age-defying oil.

Cut your showers short, by the way. When it’s nippy outside it’s tempting to turn a morning shower into a half-hour steam orgy. But prolonged exposure to hot water breaks down skin’s lipid layer, a complex of fatty acids designed to reduce moisture loss. To prevent snake skin, restrict showers to 5 minutes, baths to 10 – and to help prevent skin dehydrating while you’re in the bath, try applying a layer of body oil before you soak.

And most importantly, moisturise from within.  Whole grains, eggs, olive oil and flaxseed oil, dark leafy veg and walnuts and almonds are rich sources of Essential Fatty Acids, which help maintain skin’s barrier function and almost ‘moisturise’ form within. If you’re not a vegetarian, you can also get EFAs from salmon, herring and mackerel. (If you are, flax seed oil and hemp oil are fantastic sources of EFAs.) We swear by Power of Krill.

Your skin will thank you for it – and you should stay gorgeously moisturised and touch-me soft, through to the (whisper it!) bikini season...