As we age our oil glands become less active, our skin becomes less able to attract moisture, and dryness becomes more visible. Now add in the winter months and our skin becomes even more of a hot mess! Let's take a look at some of the winter culprits and what we can do about it.
1. HOT SHOWERS
Nothing sounds better than a steaming hot shower or bath on a cold dreary day, but can too much of a good thing be bad? Unfortunately, in this case, yes.
Too much hot water strips your skin of natural oils, causes increased evaporation of natural hydration and disrupts the lipid layers (outermost layer) of your skin that locks in moisture. Without moisture your skin becomes dry and itchy.
2. DRY INDOOR HEAT
Our furnace runs more as the temperatures drop which in turn dries out the air. When we were kids we would slide across the carpet in our stocking feet then chase each other around trying to touch someone and "shock" them. This is actually the build up of electrons on our skin's surface due to dryer air.
Even though this may be fun for the kids, our skin doesn't like it at all. The dry heat is responsible for the moisture in our skin to evaporate faster causing our skin to thicken with dead cells, slowing turnover of new cells, becoming chapped and possibly crack.
3. LOWER HUMIDITY
Humidity levels are basically the amount of water vapors that are in the air.
In the summer we generally have more rain with higher humidity where in the winter we have the opposite. This means our skin has to work harder to produce additional oil and moisture, which leads to flaky, peeling and dryer skin.
4. HEAVIER CLOTHING
We all love getting comfy in our fluffy sweaters, warm sweatshirts, and flannel PJ's but our skin is not as excited.
Cold weather fabrics like wool and rough material can cause our skin to get irritated and itchy. These materials are also heavy and our skin can't reap any moisture benefits.
5. HARSH COLDER WINDS
We have all heard our local newscasters talk about wind chill. As this factor increases, so does the speed of the air that comes into contact with our skin. As the wind chill increases, you get more evaporation, which dries out our skin even more.
Did you know that as our body get colder, our skin is responsible for pushing blood away from our skin to keep our internal body warmer. This in turn makes our glands less functional to produce oil. Therefore, the colder the air is the colder our body gets and the harsher it is on our skin.
Now, before you book the next flight to Bora Bora, here are some things you can do to keep your skin healthy and feeling better all winter long.
1. SHOWER SENSE
Hot showers may feel good to your muscles and sinuses but it dries out our skin.
- Lower the water temperature to warm or luke-warm.
- Pat dry, don't rub skin dry while using a soft cotton towel.
- Swap harsh soap with a skin loving cleanser rich in oils such as Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Castor Oil, Aloe Vera and Shea Butter.
2. EXFOLIATE IN MODERATION
The last thing raw, dehydrated, flaky skin needs is a harsh abrasive.
- Use a sugar scrub made with lots of butters and oils. A sugar scrub is gentler than a salt scrub and the sugar will not burn if you have scratches or abrasions. Use a sugar scrub no more than once per week.
- Swap more scratchy loofahs, sponges and brushes with softer washcloths or simply use your hands.
3. MOISTURE, MOISTURE, MOISTURE
It's important to apply moisturizers to your skin at least twice per day.
- Use a rich, creamy lotion throughout the day when needed, especially on your hands after washing.
- Opt for a body butter that is thicker than your daily lotion. Look for a cream that stays in the jar when you turn it upside down (thickness test) and contains oils and moisturizing ingredients that penetrate cracked skin, seals in moisture and adheres for a long-term and intense healing.
- Apply your body butter or lotion to damp skin as soon as you get out of your morning shower to lock in moisture.
- Before you put on your PJ's for the night, apply your body butter again to soothe skin and keep moisturizing as you sleep.
4. DRINK IT UP
Your skin cells need proper hydration in order to regenerate.
- Aim for 8 - 10 cups of unsweetened beverages per day.
- Yes, water, tea, coffee, sparkling water, and fruit infused water count, just keep them unsweetened!
5. PROPER CLOTHING
Protecting your skin and keeping your body warm play a big part in your skin health.
- Wear layers made from soft, breathable material like silk and cotton. These types of materials against your skin with the heavier sweaters layered over them will keep irritation at bay.
- Waterproof gloves help to protect your hands while doing dishes or using harsh cleansers.
- Warm coats, gloves and mittens, hats, socks and boots should always be part of your winter clothing arsenal.
Now you have some insight into why your skin gets dry in the winter and some steps for you to modify your skin care regimen. Say good bye to chapped, flaky, itchy skin!
If you still experience dryness, discomfort and irritation after trying these tactics, you may want to see your primary care provider or dermatologist to make sure it's nothing serious.
Now go out, play in the snow, have a snowball fight or marshmallows at a campfire with the kids and enjoy!
You are braver than you believe!
You are more beautiful than you imagined!
GH Beauty Lab Director Birnur Aral, PH.D.
The Winter Itch
Penn Medicine Heath and Wellness
10 Surprising Causes of Dry Skin
Everyday Health, January 17, 2020