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How to take care of your skin even when you have a cold 


Because who has the energy for a complete skin care routine when they’re sick?

woman looking in mirror

A cold can wreak havoc on your entire body, from a stuffed-up nose to achiness, and your skin can really feel the effects. “I think the most common thing is irritation of the nose from using tissues, and dry, irritated skin from the medicines that you’re using,” says Jennifer David, DO, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Bala Cynwyd, PA. “If you’re using decongestant, that can sometimes dry out your skin.”

You know to rest and drink plenty of fluids to fight a cold, but your skin may need some extra love as well. If you don’t have the energy to do your complete skin care routine, no sweat—the best way to treat your skin when you’re sick is to keep the routine simple. Focus on these tips while the rest of your body recovers.

Use a creamy cleanser

“Focus on just a great cleanser and moisturizing system to keep your skin hydrated,” Dr. David advises. Choose a gentle, creamy cleanser over a foamy or gel formula; those can strip skin of its natural hydrating oils, she explains. Use lukewarm water when washing your face, and apply a face cream immediately after to seal in the moisture.

Stock up on ceramides

Use a moisturizer that contains ceramides, which fortify your skin barrier to prevent moisture loss and defend skin against the environmental factors. This will help offset any incidental damage from a cold, particularly on the nose and eyes (such as from constantly wiping and blowing your nose with a dry tissue). Those areas can get irritated and the skin barrier can be compromised, Dr. David says. Tip: put some moisturizer in a clean, unused contact case so you can have it on the go.

Surround yourself with moisture

It can be tempting to spend your sick day in a blanket cocoon with the heat on blast, but that indoor heat can exacerbate the already-dry winter air and irritate your skin even more. Use a cool-mist humidifier to bring moisture into the air, which can relieve congestion and help with dry skin.

Slather on ointment

If your nose is so red that you could double as one particularly well-known reindeer, Dr. David recommends using petroleum jelly or ointment to coat both the outside and inside of your nostrils. It makes for a nice barrier that helps you hold onto moisture, she explains, and can also offer some comfort to raw, chapped skin.

Stop exfoliating

When it comes to your serums, face scrubs, exfoliators, and other skin treatments, it’s best to set them aside until you’re better, Dr. David says. Retinoids and vitamin C are powerful ingredients which can be too harsh to use on extra-sensitive skin. And the same goes for chemical exfoliants, like alpha-hydroxy acids, which work to remove dead skin cells from your skin’s surface. Most of the time this serves as a good thing, but when your skin barrier is compromised, it can be a fast track to irritation and redness. Your scrubs and microbead-infused formulas, which use mechanical exfoliation, are also off-limits. Think of it this way: a shortened skin care routine will help you get back in bed faster.