Winter is the driest time of year, and here in the high desert, we are especially susceptible to cracking and chafing. The best thing you can do is prep your skin now for the dry days ahead and get into the habit of taking care of yourself to avoid bandaging and pain later.

First things first: quit showering so much. Sometimes, in the winter, all you want is a hot bath, but hot water saps the moisture from your skin. Taking cooler showers or baths can help tame the dry rage, but as much as you can avoid showering and still stay clean, the better off you'll be. When you do shower, use a moisturizing body wash rather than soap, or even shower oil (Eucerin and Aveeno both make one for under $10). Exfoliate no more than once a week with a sugar scrub or loofah to get the dead skin off. The last thing you want to do is irritate your skin, because the very air around you is going to do its best on that front.

A million grandmothers can't be wrong, so, for your face, try a cold cream instead of washing every night. Especially if you wear makeup, a cold cream can get the gunk off without stripping your face of the moisture it so desperately clings to in the cold weather. It might feel a bit weird the first few times, but just wiping the dirt off instead of lathering up will keep your cheeks fresh and smooth, and you'll save on face moisturizer.

Alternatively, you can try something like Say Yes to Cucumbers Hypoallergenic Facial Towelettes, which will remove the grime without leaving you totally dry. Wanna be super cheap about it? Baby wipes work wonders.

Regardless of how often you shower, you should always moisturize afterward. Get a good, Ph-balanced lotion (like Cetaphil or Lubriderm) and put it on after you step out of the tub. Find the right face lotion for you, ideally including at least 15 SPF for the winter sun (Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer rocks), and use it anytime you get your face wet. Also, get a good lip balm and carry it with you wherever you go.

Probably the No. 1 place you're going to feel the chapping is your hands, particularly your cuticles. On top of moisturizing every time you get out of the shower, you should put lotion on your hands after you wash them. Ironically, bacteria and germs hide much better in the cracked, dry skin that comes from washing your hands too often than in smooth, moisturized hands, so you've got to find the proper balance of cleanliness and moisturizing. Keep a bottle of lotion on your desk at work or in your bag or wherever you'll have it on hand.

Slather up before you go to bed with something like Burt's Bees Hand Salve, and if you want to be really good, wear white cotton gloves to bed.

The very best thing you can do to keep your skin hydrated is hydrate from the inside out. Drink plenty of water, and do your best to keep the alcoholic eggnog and cider to a minimum in your holiday revelry.

Quick Hits: An incomplete list of where to find skin-saving products in Santa Fe

Both Whole Foods Market (753 Cerrillos Road, 992-1700) and Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy (530 W Cordova Road, 820-1517) offer an array of mainstream and organic skin-care products, but we love the local La Montañita Co-op (913 W Alameda St., 984-2852) for its friendly, down-home vibe. Several local spas also carry a variety of products; find some of the best selections at Body (333 W Cordova Road, 986-0362) and Ten Thousand Waves (3451 Hyde Park Road, 982-9304). For even more local, natural products, try Milagro Herbs (419 Orchard Drive, 820-6321). Downtown, Cos Bar (128 W Water St., 984-2676) offers high-end brands like Kiehl's.

Katherine Cox is a writer living in Albuquerque.

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