06/01/2015 11:41 GMT | Updated 07/12/2017 03:20 GMT

5 Ways Winter May Be Aging You

It's the middle of winter and chances are you're dealing with sub-zero temps, fewer daylight hours, and a constant chill, as well as more mittens, snow boots and hats than you can handle. All of this makes us want to curl up indoors where it's nice and warm and we can pretend it isn't grey and bleak outside. But what you probably don't realize is that the way you cope with the season matters -- a lot. If you don't want the winter weather to age you, here's what you need to keep an eye on.

1. Heating is drying you out.
Ever wake up in the winter with a dry mouth or notice your lips are chapped more often than usual? As we spend more time indoors, we're increasingly exposed to central heating, space heaters and even electronic fireplaces. All that dry, hot air your skin is being exposed to all day long zaps the moisture from your skin, causing flaking, tightness and dullness. Since staying outdoors isn't exactly an option, fight the effects by using a humidifier. Humidifiers help pump moisture into the air, helping your skin feel more comfortable and hydrated. P.S. a humidifier also can help a room retain more heat. Win-win.

2. Tanning is not your friend.
One of the worst parts of winter is kissing your sun-kissed, golden summer skin goodbye. With more holiday parties and gatherings to attend, many people feel conscious of their pale color, running to tanning beds for a quick fix. While your tan may looks good, it's not doing you any favors. The UV lights in tanning beds damage the collagen and elastin in your skin, causing all sorts of problems like premature wrinkling, sagging, dark spots and a leathery-texture. Yikes -- probably not the look you were going for. We suggest you opt for a good bronzer instead.

3. Hot toddies and sweet desserts should be avoided for more reasons than just the possibility of weight gain.
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Many of us encounter weight gain during the holidays. Combine a constant flow of holiday treats and tipple with hiding your figure under warm, baggy winter sweaters and coats and the pounds are guaranteed to creep up on you. But besides weight gain, you're inundating your system with sugar and alcohol.

Alcohol dehydrates you and can deplete your skin's vitamin A, a key component for cell renewal and keeping your skin supple -- if you overdo it. Meanwhile, sugar causes inflammation in the body and studies have shown your body creates compounds called AGEs as it processes sugar in your body, which damage proteins in your skin, and also weaken your skin's defenses from sun damage.

4. Those hot showers may not be doing you a lot of good.
It's hard enough getting out of bed and feeling the cold floor under your feet. Once you make it to the bathroom, it's even harder to pull yourself out of the hot, steamy shower. Not only is the steam and heat relaxing, sometimes it's the only thing that gets the cold out of your bones.

But beware hour-shower-takers. Your skin needs all the moisture it can get in the winter and showers make it harder. Exceedingly hot showers strip your skin of its top layer, which locks in moisture. In addition, a long hot shower can strip away a thin layer of oil on your skin. The result? Tight, itchy, flaky skin. Ouch.

Try not to stay in the shower longer than you need to get clean. And try to use warm, not hot, water. Most importantly, don't forget to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

5. Cold weather may make you less likely to exercise.
We get it. They say getting to the gym is half the effort. But in winter that means putting on gym clothes, a winter coat, packing your gym shoes, putting on boots and scraping the ice off your car. So somewhere around post-Halloween, pre-Thanksgiving, we all find ourselves slacking in the fitness department.

But in our end-of-year laziness, we forget the many virtues of exercise. Whether you like it or not, it improves your mood, helps bust stress and keeps your waistline in check. And besides keeping you happy on the inside, it could help keep you young on the outside too. Studies have shown that exercise over time can help keep inflammation at bay -- something which is linked to many age-related diseases.

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