Winter time and your skin

Warm clothes come down from the attic, your bed is too warm to get up, and the temperature outside is below freezing – these are just some of the signs that winter is already here… and it’s not going anywhere for the next few months. What else defines winter? Well, it’s a challenging time for your skin, particularly facial skin. On the other hand, it’s the perfect opportunity to take care of your skin the way you really should.

What really happens to the skin in winter?

Above everything else – dryness, and an underlying discomfort in exposed skin, such as the face, lips and hands. But it’s more than that. The skin may react in harsher ways, such as chapping, itchiness, irritation, redness, sensitivity, flaking on the sides of the nose, and peeling in other areas. It’s a ‘winning’ combination (/sarcasm) that is both bothersome and unsightly.

Why does it happen to me?

That’s a fair question. And the answer is two-fold: it’s because of nature and it’s because of us. In winter, nature gives us colder, dryer weather than summer (when humidity is higher). And us? We wear warm clothes, which only reduce the skin’s natural ability to “breathe”, making it more susceptible to stress. The winter air also compromises the natural balance of oils in the surface layer of the skin, which protect the skin and help maintain its moisture level. In winter, we tend to shower in water that is too hot, which further strips away this wonderfully protective layer of oil. We move between heated indoor environments to the cold outdoors, and the extreme temperature change dries the skin even more. And of course, there are the winter colds and other illnesses common during the season that undermine the body’s immune system and affect the skin’s general appearance.

Can anything be done about it?

The encouraging answer is, “yes, totally!” With a few simple steps and a bit of extra attention, you can improve your skin and your quality of life:

  • Humidity levels: Every skin expert recommends the same thing – keep your skin as hydrated as possible, by using creams that contain moisturizing ingredients or agents, such as alpha hydroxy acid, glycerin and sorbitol.
  • Cleanse smartly: When it comes to cleansing, not all methods are equal – especially in winter. Although you might rinse your face with water often in the summer to no ill effect, water can seriously over-dry the facial skin in the winter. During the cold months, it is important to restore the skin’s lost moisture. How? By cleansing with a moisture-rich lotion.
  • Short and to the point. A long, hot shower in winter is a true pleasure – but not for your skin. This is due to the same reason mentioned earlier: long, hot showers tend to dissolve the natural protective layer of oil that sits on the skin surface. So, in the winter, make sure to take shorter showers, and turn down the water temperature.
  • Licking is off limits! At least when it comes to your lips. Why? The natural tendency in the cold season is to lick your lips to make them moist and to reduce the sensation of dryness. But what actually happens is that the lips dry out even more. The solution: Use a moisturizing lip balm.
  • Listen to grandma. It seems that the famous “old wives’ tales” really do work. For example, make sure the air in your home is kept humid enough to protect the skin against the drying effects of heaters and clothes dryers. How? By leaving uncovered bowls of water next to working heaters so the water diffuses in the air, increasing the indoor humidity level. An alternative: Buy a humidifier.