How to Combat Dry Skin in Winter

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Despite your efficient skin care regimen, you might find your efforts failing when the weather is cold and dry, a characteristic of winter. The rough, raw, cracked and itchy skin usually referred to as the winter itch is common during this season. Besides the discomfort that winter itch brings about, the unsightly tell-tale signs don’t exactly help with your appearance.

There’s a brighter side; you don’t have to endure through the ordeal! You can take several measures to deal with the situation right after you understand exactly what happens to your skin during winter. Here is all the information you need on how to combat dry skin in winter.

The Connection between Winter and Dry Skin

When the top-most layer of your skin, also known as the Stratum Corneum is healthy and well hydrated, it is capable of sufficiently shielding the inner layers of the skin from the harsh effects of the elements. There are also layers of natural oils that provide back-up for the skin’s water retention efforts. Everything works well until when the skin moisture is robbed! How does this happen?

Winter is characterized by cold temperatures. When the air is cold, it can’t hold much water. This translates to low humidity and skin is therefore forced to give up much of its moisture to the atmosphere through trans-epidermal water loss. This is a more extreme kind of water loss compared to normal evaporation.

The central heating systems in homes and other places, and hot showers don’t help with the situation either; the former gets rid of the little moisture left in the indoor air while the latter strips the body of the protective oil. 

When skin cells lose water, they become flaccid, causing the skin to reduce in volume and surface area. The stretched skin becomes rough, itchy and red and may eventually crack, all of which are signs of dry skin. You don’t have to wait until you are literally bleeding; here is what to do:

Notch Up the Humidity in your Home

From the above information, we can deduce that drier air means drier skin. This can be taken care of by increasing the moisture in the air especially in places where you spend much time like the bedroom. 

Humidifier in the living room

 

The best way to do this will be to use a humidifier. This comes with added advantages of relieving respiratory congestions and cold symptoms. Some heating systems have it already so it is good to check if yours does. 

Set the humidifier at 60% to counter the drying effects and while at it, ensure that the heating system is not set too high.

Keep Showers Lukewarm and Short

When it is cold, the urge to take hot showers and to linger a little bit more in the shower is irresistible. However, as good as it may feel, it may work against you. Hot water easily strips away the protective layer of oil so the more time you spend in there, the more you are likely to strip more.

Shower using lukewarm water and make your shower time about 5-10 minutes. While showering, closing the door keeps moisture from evaporating from your body while using a mild cleanser and a lighter touch on wash clothes or bath sponge can help in not stripping the protective layer off your skin. Once you are done, use a towel to pat your skin dry as opposed to rubbing it.  

This should be immediately followed by applying a moisturizer while the skin is still damp to seal in the moisture.

Use Sunscreen

Do you really need sunscreen in winter? Yes, don’t be deceived by the low temperatures; the sun’s UVA rays are as strong and active as ever. Besides exposing you to the risk of skin cancer, the harmful rays penetrate into your skin and age it by causing wrinkles and reducing your skin’s elasticity.

The rays are more intense at high altitude places so you need to be extra careful if you are snowboarding, skiing or hiking. Besides this, snow can reflect the sun’s rays and give you a sun burn

These effects can be even more devastating on dry skin; the last thing you want is a combination of dry and sun damaged skin. Lather on moisturizing sunscreen of SPF 30 or above.

Give Your Hands Extra Care

Your hands will probably be the first to indicate dry skin because of the thin skin and the fact that they are exposed most of the time. They are therefore likely to suffer even more. You can protect your hands by wearing gloves when you:

  • Venture outside
  • Go to sleep
  • Need to do something that will make them wet
  • Handle chemicals and other strong substances

It is also important that you moisturize your hands every time you wash them and immediately to seal in the moisture.

Moisturize your Skin Immediately After Showering

Moisturizers work by either binding moisture that is already in your skin to prevent it from escaping or replacing moisture that has been lost back to the outer layer of the skin. Moisturizers are best used immediately after taking a shower, usually within 3 minutes, before moisture escapes from the skin.

There are 3 types of moisturizers and while each works slightly differently from the others, the best products combine all 3. Here are the three types of moisturizers: 

  • Occlusives- these are commonly referred to as the 1st generation moisturizers. They are water repellant and so they work by providing a barrier over the skin, hence preventing evaporation.

Occlusive moisturizers are excellent at water retention; they retain 98% of water in your skin.  Their only down side is that they are not appealing due to their messy and sticky nature. A good example is Vaseline petroleum jelly. Petrolatum tops the list of effective occlusive ingredients among lanolin, mineral oils and silicones.

  • Emollients- These are less messy compared to occlusives. They penetrate the skin to leave a lighter softer and more flexible feel. They come in gels, lotions, creams, and ointments. So, how do they work?

Unknown woman applying moisturiser

Skin cells are held together by a matrix of proteins and fats. When the matrix dries out due to water loss, skin cells start breaking down. Emollients step in and work like cement to preserve moisture and make the skin feel smoother.

  • Humectants- These are different in that they love moisture; they attract moisture from the deeper layers of the skin and the air and keep it in the top-most layer of the skin. Common humectants include glycerin, honey, panthenol, sorbitol and urea.

There is a downside to using humectants alone; they may draw moisture from deeper layers to the outer layers and risk losing it altogether if there is no protective barrier. They are therefore better used with occlusive ingredients.

Use these tips to help you choose the best moisturizers:

  1. Creams and ointments are more effective and less irritating than lotions and especially if they contain oils such as jojoba, olive and Shea butter.
  2. Look for products with ingredients such as Lactic acid, Hyaluronic acid, Petrolatum, Urea, Lanolin, Glycerin and dimethicone which sooth your skin besides providing a host of other benefits.
  3. Keep off products with alcohol, retinoids, fragrance, AHAs and anything that might irritate your skin since dry skin tends to be overly sensitive.

Exfoliate Your Skin

When the skin is dry, exfoliation may sound harsh but without it, the flaky skin may lead to a buildup which can lead to break outs or even hamper the penetration of moisturizers.

On the other hand, you don’t want to worsen the situation so you should go for a mild exfoliator or better still, an oil-infused one. Also, keep off products with beads and or grains that may tear your skin. If the condition of your skin is too severe, use a wash cloth instead to gently get rid of skin flakes.

Change Up Your Diet

Altering your diet to fix your skin may sound drastic but believe it or not, you can actually nurture a smooth and supple skin from within. This is not only cheaper but also natural and effortless.

Foods that contain Omega 3 fatty acids, Silica, vitamins A and E, Zinc and antioxidants are great at combating dryness in your skin. They work by inducing collagen, retaining moisture, strengthening the skin barrier, protecting the skin from UV damage and aging, reducing inflammation and repairing skin cells.

The foods that you can include in your diet include fatty fish, sweet potatoes, olive oil, nuts, avocadoes, oysters and cucumbers among others. These should however be used in combination with your skin care routine.

Try DIY Masks

When you are battling dry skin, you need all the help that you get. What is a better way to get this than the use of ingredients that you can easily find in your kitchen cabinet or the local convenience store? Some ingredients are known to sooth, hydrate and nourish your skin when used in masks.

While you might not do masks every day, having them twice or once weekly can complement your other efforts. Some of the masks that are known to work are:

  • Honey and Coconut mask- honey hydrates the skin and offers anti-bacterial benefits while virgin coconut oil moisturizes and hydrates your skin without leaving it oily. 2-3 drops of lavender essential oil can add a pleasant fragrance and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Banana and Yoghurt mask – the banana fruit is rich in potassium and vitamins E and C that restore and hydrate the skin while yoghurt nourishes and relieves dry skin.
  • Aloe Vera and Milk Cream maskAloe Vera soothes irritated skin in addition to its healing properties. Its most beneficial property in this case is the ability to lock in moisture and prevent water loss from the skin. Milk cream on the other hand is rich in fats that moisturize the skin.
  • Egg Yolk and Olive Oil Mask- Egg yolk is rich in fatty acids and Sulphur which help in moisturizing and adding elasticity to your skin while olive oil moisturizes your skin without making it oily.

Woman making aloe vera mask at home

These are just but a few examples of the numerous DIY masks that you can do at the comfort of your home.

Cover Up When You Go Out

Dressing warmly in winter is out of question. Scarves, beanies, coats and boots among other winter clothes now have an opportunity to shine. Dry skin during winter calls for more than just warm clothes; a careful selection of clothes that will not only protect you from the elements but also not cause further damage to your already suffering skin. 

Here are a few tips to guide you

  • Wear a scarf to protect your neck, part of your face and nose
  • Keep off woolen clothes; they tend to irritate your skin while nylon, rayon, polyester and nylon may make you feel itchier because they are less breathable
  • Go with cotton which is more favorable
  • If you wear wool, go with merino wool or pair it up with a light layer of cotton underneath

Protect Your Lips

Dry chapped lips are one of the most common signs of dry skin. To keep them protected, wear lip balm that feels comfortable on your lips. You should keep of any product that sting or tingle when you apply as they can make the situation worse.

Use lip balm through the day or as you need it and ensure that you have a handy tube with you as you venture out just in case you need it. To reinforce the effort especially when you are outdoors, you can put a layer of petroleum jelly. While at it, resist the urge to constantly lick your lips as this further dries them. 

You don’t have to battle dry, flaky and hideous skin just because it is winter. Taking any or a combination of the above measures will take you a step closer to having moisturized, healthy and smooth skin through the season. It is better if you can start way before the season but if you are caught off-guard, you can still do something about it. Your greatest tools will be patience, consistence and of course the willingness to try out several until you come up with several that work for you. If your efforts don’t bear fruit however, maybe it is time to consult a dermatologist.

Amore Mio G

Amore Mio brings you important news and tips from the skincare industry, with a focus on dealing with problematic skin.

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