As the temperature drops and the nights grow longer, your skin may shift to a dry and flaky texture in winter. The low temperature and humidity of this season causes our skin to become more dry, resulting in poor barrier function of the skin, flares of eczema and dermatitis, increased sensitivity and itch, and more prominent appearance of fine lines and wrinkles (if that matters).
But there are ways to counter the skin changes brought on by the cold. With these simple skin hacks, you can keep your skin supple and healthy despite the freeze.
Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise
Counter the dry winter chill with a heavy-duty moisturiser. Shift from your airy, lightweight summer moisturiser to something with a thicker and creamier consistency. This will leave your skin feeling supple for longer, putting up a worthy fight against the cold and dry environment.
Moisturisers in their chemical properties come as three types;
- Humectants which draw water to the skin
- Occlusives which prevent water escape from the skin, and
- Emollients which fill in the cracks between your skin.
Commercially available moisturisers come in different chemical makeup and good ones will have all three types ticked off. The key is to try different moisturisers until you find one that you like best. If you need a moisturiser that is just right for you in its texture and moisturising properties, this can be made for you in an affordable manner at some compounding pharmacies specialising in skin.
Consider a humidifier at home
If a humectant moisturiser is Batman, a humidifier would be Robin.
The hygroscopic (water absorbing) property of a moisturiser is maximised only when the air around you contains moisture. Winter air is dry, add to this the use of heaters indoors and you have a great set of conditions for dry air in your house, classroom or workplace.
Consider adding a humidifier in the indoor spaces you spend the most time in, such as your bedroom or office. Use a product with humectant ingredients and give your skin relief from arid conditions.
Avoid irritating ingredients
The biting cold is already a handful for our skin to manage, so let’s not give it any other reason to stress out. Irritating ingredients like alcohol in some serums, astringents in some creams, soaps and strong fragrances can push our already damage-prone skin over the edge.
Instead, go for products that are labelled as
- “non-irritating” or;
- “for sensitive skin”.
This will give your skin the TLC it deserves for protecting us against the elements.
Protect your skin from abrasive clothing
Chemical ingredients in skincare products aren’t the only things that cause our skin additional distress. Abrasive fabrics can rub against our skin, leading to friction that could irritate your skin.
Wear a layer or two of light, comfortable clothes, ideally made from cotton, that sit directly on your skin. Then pile on however many layers of heavy-duty winter clothing you need to stay warm.
And the same principle goes for mittens. Wearing glove liners made of silk or cotton under your wooly mittens can protect dry hands from further irritation.
Protect your skin from snow-reflected UV rays
An overcast winter day might make you think that you don’t need sunscreen, but the snow that falls down from it is definitely a reason to worry. Fresh snow can double a person’s UV exposure because it is just so good at reflecting the sun’s rays.
Thankfully, the winter chill has your body covered with heavy clothing that prevents UV rays from seeping in, but you have to protect every other part of your body left exposed–including your eyes!
Snow blindness, also known as photokeratitis, is basically getting your eyes sunburned. It is as painful as it sounds. To avoid this, wear UV-protective sunglasses or winter goggles with a UV rating.
Don’t turn up the heat too high
If the cold makes our skin dry and irritated, then turning up the heat will make it all better–right?
Our attempts to compensate for the low temperature by cranking it up could be doing more harm than good.
A long, hot bath may sound luxurious, but your skin would much prefer a quick, lukewarm shower. Keeping your heater to a comfortable 20-22°C keeps you from shivering without shocking your skin.
Some last thoughts
As a dermatology practice, we see a rise in patients seeking assistance with eczema, hand dermatitis and psoriasis in the winter months. With cold and low levels of humidity, we need to counter-act the drying effects of these conditions by avoiding irritants getting to our skin and being liberal and frequent with the use of moisturisers.
Interestingly, what we see less of in winter is patients seeking skin checks for skin cancers. The saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ may explain this phenomena well, however skin cancers don’t just wait for warmer weather to appear. Check your own skin regularly for any new or changing lesions and see your GP or dermatologist if you have a concern.
Look after your skin in all seasons of the year, at all times.
The information presented on this website is for general information and example purposes only, does not contain health advice specific for users and must not be relied on for that purpose. Please see your GP, dermatologist or other health care professional for specific advice.