Keep skin looking healthy and feeling fresh this winter!
With drastic changes to temperature and weather conditions outside for the next few months, it is important to understand the science behind the effects of winter on our skin, how to prevent these symptoms, and dermatologist recommended treatments dependent on the skin condition.
What happens to human skin in the winter?
The human skin is composed of three major layers (epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis), and is the outermost covering of the human body and our largest organ. Among many other things, the human skin is responsible for protection from pantheons, defense from damage from the external environment, sensation, heat regulation, excretion, absorption, and water retention.
During dry, cold winter months, the human skin barrier loses its natural moisture and protective oils, leaving us vulnerable to skin conditions ranging from mild to more severe cases. Common areas most affected by the cold are our hands, arms, legs, behind the knees, and thighs.
Determining which prevention and treatment options are needed will depend on the condition.
What are common winter skin conditions?
There are several types of skin conditions that can result from prolonged exposure to the cold and wind, and the contrasting dry central heating used indoors in the winter. It is important to learn about these common conditions and how we can best prevent them and/or treat them. Remember, any major concerns about your conditions should be handled by a physician right away.
Dermatitis (type of eczema): an inflammation of the skin, and is a result of poor circulation, exposure to harsh chemicals, an allergen, or infection. Flares are specifically common in winter.
Rosacea: a long-term bacterial skin condition, mainly affecting the face, causing rashes and/or small red bumps in the affected area(s). Majority of cases are found on women with fairer skin, and can be a direct result of, or more prominent during, colder and drier temperatures.
Urticaria: also known as 'hives', urticaria is a skin condition that causes swollen, itchy bumps on the body’s skin and can be caused from extensive exposure to the cold outdoors. Hives can also be a result of a reaction to chemicals, insect bites, or food, and can repeatedly appear.
Psoriasis: a skin disease that can cause red, itchy, and scaly patches. The disease is normally long-term and can flare for a few weeks or months at a time. Due to less sun exposure in winter months, symptoms can worsen and be commonly found on the knees, elbows, torso, and scalp.
Windburn: a condition referring to a burning or redness your skin may experience after spending time in the cold, windy air outside, then transitioning indoors to dry central heating.
Chapped Lips: a common condition after exposure to cold air outside, and the contrasting dry, central heated air inside during winter. The condition is a result of the lips’ top layer losing flexibility and hydration, resulting in sore, cracked, and/or scaly lips.
Winter skin conditions prevention and treatment methods:
Fortunately, winter skin conditions are common, and there are many simple over-the-counter and regular at-home remedies to add to your daily routine or try when a little extra boost is required.
Essential Vitamins: according to research, ensuring these essential vitamins are a part of your daily food intake will contribute to the healthy promotion of skin cells. Dermatologists recommend a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds due to their high antioxidant properties and high levels of vitamins A, C, D, and E, which are critical for skin health.
Warm Baths and Showers: while experiencing skin issues, it is important to avoid extremely hot showers and baths. Although the hot sensation may provide immediate relief, the heat will further dry out skin and can lead to additional flare-ups. It is best to shower or bathe using lukewarm water (for no longer than 10 minutes) in order to soothe and clean skin on a daily basis.
Moisturizing the Skin: after a lukewarm shower or bath is the optimal time to moisturize. Dermatologists recommend using a fragrance-free moisturizer high in hyaluronic acid to help skin retain the most moisture. Try to apply the cream when dry, 3 minutes after showering or bathing for optimal results.
Use of Natural Oils: dry weather strips our skin’s natural oil production. That is why dermatologists suggest applying aloe vera gel, coconut oil, safflower oil, and/or avocado oil on clean skin due to their excellent nourishing properties and anti-inflammatory compounds, ideal for soothing damaged skin.
Avoid Harmful Products: while cleansing, it is crucial to use mild soaps and shampoos that are free of dyes and scents, and avoid exfoliating products that can be very harsh on already dry skin. It may also be a good idea to use your hands while bathing instead of washcloths, loofahs, or sponges that can spread bacteria and irritate skin further. After bathing, use only clean towels that have been washed in dye-free and fragrance-free laundry detergent to gently pat your skin dry.
Hydrate: as winter weather dries our skin, it is important to keep hydrated both internally and externally. Make sure to drink lots of refreshing water, and consume foods high in water content such as watermelon, strawberries, cucumbers, and celery. Using humidifiers to add moisture to the air indoors can also significantly improve your skin’s hydration levels during the winter.
Use of Sunscreen: just because it’s winter and we may not feel the sun’s heat on our skin, does not mean it’s not touching us! Through all seasons, the sun produces UVA and UVB rays that reach us, even when cloudy or snowy out. The only time our skin is truly safe from the sun is during the night.
This said, it is important to wear sunscreen not only in the summer months but all year long. Using a “broad spectrum” sunscreen will protect your skin from both UVA rays and UVB rays. UVA rays are longer in wavelength and have been associated with skin aging, while UVB rays are shorter in wavelength, and are commonly found in summer months (or warmer climates), and are associated with skin burning. Adding sunscreen to your daily routine will not only keep your skin feeling healthy year round, but will keep it looking youthful and radiant for years to come!
Layer in Warmth: like any issue, adding prevention tactics early on is the best option! Before heading outdoors this season, remember to dress accordingly and check any local weather updates.
On route to the office or school lecture? Make sure to show up as your best self in products that will keep you dry, warm, and protected including our Base Layers Tops and Bottoms with our specialized moisture and odor management technology to seamlessly switch from outdoor to indoor activities and environments. While prepping for the day, protect all other exposed skin or extremities from the harsh winter conditions too with Heat Holders® thick and cozy gloves, super-soft socks and incredibly insulating neck warmers and hats to match.
Staying warm from head-to-toe is toe-tally possible!
Although there are many methods to optimally treat your skin this winter, it is important to find the routines and products that work best for you! Remember, everyone is wonderfully unique and different, and consulting a registered dermatologist or physician regarding your specific skin type and any concerns can provide exceptional benefits to you (and your skin) in the long run.
Don’t forget to wear your sunscreen everyone!
I also find a cool mist vaporizer very helpful!