As the seasons change, the battle for healthy skin begins as we brace ourselves for the onslaught of winter complexion issues. Don’t stress, you’re not doomed to six straight months of dry, sensitive or dehydrated skin, chapped lips and flaky locks – not when we’ve got your back.
Just as we change our clothes and wardrobes to adjust to the cold weather, we should also change our skincare routines as the harsh elements of winter can cause havoc to our skin. With each decade of life, our skin becomes drier and as we lose our natural oils, it’s important to moisturise the skin daily.
Hydration of the skin depends on how water is held in the outer layer of the skin. Maintaining hydration is a key part of enabling the skin to act as a protective barrier against the environment.
Winter air can be especially harsh, which is torture for those who already have naturally dry skin. Dry air takes away the thin layer of oil that traps moisture in the skin, flaring itchy and painful conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and severe dry skin. Eczema is often aggravated due to the increased use of central heating, and psoriasis may also flare due to reduced exposure to natural sunlight. As the duration of daylight is shorter, we often go to and from work in the dark and as a result, we have very limited exposure to UV. Even though we might not realise it, there is UV all year round. Even on a clear winter’s day, we are still exposed to UV radiation so it’s important to wear a daily sunscreen with both UVA/UVB protection on all exposed areas including the face, neck and back of hands.
Artificial heating sucks the air out of our skin which can cause little cracks that affect the barrier of the skin. Dryness and dehydration aren’t synonyms—they actually refer to two totally different skin conditions. Dry skin is a skin type, and occurs when your sebaceous glands don’t produce enough oil to keep your skin properly lubricated. Dehydrated skin doesn’t always feel flaky or itchy—it can even feel oily—but it’s effectively stripped of all its naturally occurring sebum, which leads to skin that feels tight or even extra greasy. To counter this, lay off the exfoliation and harsh cleansers and embrace gentle products instead.
The entire body, particularly the face, hands and legs, are all exposed to winter temperatures. The addition of heavy clothing and itchy fabrics can often aggravate skin conditions. If your skin does flare up, choose soft and breathable fabrics, like cotton, instead of itchy woollens, or polyester. Loose-fitting clothing will also help to keep your skin from becoming irritated by perspiration. When it’s cold outside, some of us prolong our hot showers and baths, which can be a recipe for dry and irritated skin. So keep your shower short, use lukewarm water, switch to sensitive soaps and shower gels, and apply moisturiser while your skin is still damp. Avoid the temptation to have a long hot bath, as this can strip away much needed natural oil from the skin.
Winter also usually gifts us with the famous chapped red nose as a result of the dreaded and constant sniffles. To remedy your Rudolph situation, apply some lip balm to the affected area of the nose, which helps your skin hold onto the moisture the tissues are wiping away.
Even though we might not realise it, our scalp is still skin—and a flaky scalp is a lot more likely to occur in winter. Dandruff and irritation can happen for a number of reasons from unsuitable shampoo, too-tight hats or product build-up. If you notice you’re losing a lot of hair in addition to dealing with flakes, see your doctor—otherwise work an anti-dandruff shampoo into your haircare routine.
Talk to your GP about getting the flu shot. If he/she agrees that it’s appropriate, ask them about any other possible vaccinations that might help you fight infection. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!