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Ah, the winter season! That lovely time of year when the temperature drops, the snow falls, and you get to walk in a winter wonderland. Unless, of course, you are further south. Then you get just get cold. Either way, the cold air doesn’t do your skin any favors. Here’s a look at how the winter affects your skin and some winter skin care tips to keep your skin healthy when the weather turns colder.
How Cold Weather Affects Your Skin
The cold weather can be harsh on your skin. The low temperatures combined with the low humidity can strip your skin of moisture. This can cause your skin to become dry, cracked, and irritated. Further, as we heat the inside of our home, this contributes to lower moisture in the air and leaves you with extremely dry skin that becomes flaky and itchy. This, in turn, can lead to breakouts as the excess dead skin cells clog pores.
Winter Skin Care Tips
The following winter skin care tips will help to keep dry skin at bay, keep your skin healthy, and help those with sensitive skin survive the winter months.
Drink Water. Stay Hydrated.
Our skin is made up of 70% water. In the winter, when there is less water in the air, we can lose moisture causing dry skin, chapped lips, and other skin issues. The first step in combatting this is to make sure you stay hydrated and nourish your skin, as well as your body, from the inside. In addition to staying hydrated, drinking plenty of water is purifying and keeps your skin clear.
Keep Normally Exposed Areas Covered and Skin Dry when Outside
Prolonged exposure to the colder weather can wreak havoc on exposed skin. Wear gloves and clothing made from breathable materials to keep skin dry. Damp skin, from sweat or other, can make it hard to stay warm and add to skin irritation.
And if you know you will be sweating or playing in the snow, avoid cotton gloves and other clothing made of cotton. Cotton is naturally absorbent and can absorb up to 7% of its weight in water keeping your skin wet.
Invest in a Humidifier.
Since the air around you is much drier during the winter, and the use of indoor heat is prevalent, it’s a good idea to invest in a humidifier to put some much-needed moisture back into the air. I recommend putting one in every room you use the most but especially in your bedroom when you are sleeping at night.
There are two kinds of humidifiers – steam and cool mist. While steam humidifiers are great for clearing the sinuses and unclogging pores, a cool mist humidifier can help put moisture back into the air without further stripping your skin of natural oils due to the heat.
Skip Hot Showers.
This is really a good tip for the whole year. I have a hard time with this one because I love a hot shower. The hotter the better. But it really does take a toll on the skin. The hot water strips your skin of its natural oils leading to dry skin. It is better to take quick 10-minute, lukewarm showers if you can stand it. Many people also follow this up with a cold rinse which helps close the pores and seal in the moisture.
If you choose to use a body wash, or even plain soap for that matter, choose one that is fragrance free and contains shea butter. Especially if you have sensitive skin. Fragrance can contribute to dry skin and can make you itchier. The shea butter can help with flaky skin and combat some of the hot water you may have used.
During the dry, winter months it is a good idea to exfoliate frequently to take care of dry, scaly skin. If there is a build-up of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, it is harder for moisturizers and other treatments to work. Further, the build-up can lead to clogged pores. Make sure you are taking the time to rid your skin of these excess cells.
Try an easy homemade body scrub by mixing 1/2 cup carrier oil (like jojoba, almond, olive, etc.) with 1/2 cup sugar or salt. For a wonderful scent, add a few drops of the essential oil of your choice. I’m partial to lavender. For your face, find a gentle scrub to use. Avoid ones that are overly harsh and use things like ground-up shells (like walnut shells), fruit pits, etc. These can be very damaging to the skin. Look for ones that contain evenly shaped particles, preferably round, that are more finely milled. And make sure you gently rub it on. Do not use too much pressure.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize to Keep Dry Skin at Bay.
This is probably one of the most important tasks on this list and yet it seems like the one people forget to do or forgo doing most often. Because of our dry winter skin, it is important to moisturize often to add some moisture back.
A regular body lotion may do the trick. However, I always feel best using a thicker body butter preferably with shea butter. Again, choose one that is fragrance free if you have sensitive skin.
For the small spots such as cuticles, elbows, knees, etc., I recommend a skin conditioning oil. Arbonne sells an amazing one that works wonders. Recently, my husband had a spot on his arm that was dry and really red. It looked awful. We put a drop or two of the oil on it before bed one night and it was noticeably better the next day. A little goes a long way. I love putting it on all my rough spots at night before bed.
Depending on your skin, you may get away with moisturizing once a day but I prefer to moisturize once in the morning and once more before bed. If you do choose to moisturize at night, try doing so about 30 minutes before bed to keep from feeling too wet or sticky when crawling under the covers. Further, for use throughout the day, I would keep a hand cream nearby. With frequent hand washing, hands tend to dry out faster and also tend to be the most exposed.
Use a Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen
Even during winter weather, the sun can still affect your skin. We think of needing sun protection on hot days, but it is the UV rays from the sun that do the damage. So, make sure you protect the skin barrier with a broad-spectrum sunscreen. This will protect your skin from premature aging, damage, and skin conditions like skin cancer. Look for one that contains zinc oxide as this ingredient is safe for your skin and protects the cells from being damaged, can help prevent skin dryness, and can stop the aging process.
Wear a Lip Balm on Your Lips
Another side effect winter weather…chapped lips. After all, your lips are also just skin. And sensitive skin at that. Use lip balms to protect your lips from the dry air and prevent them from getting chapped. Find a lip balm that contains oils like jojoba or coconut. I am partial to Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm. It keeps my lips supple all winter long.
Follow These Tips for Extra Care in the Winter
Your skin does not have to suffer in winter and skin care doesn’t have to be difficult. If you follow the above tips, you should be able to keep soft, hydrated skin all season long.
Also, make sure you research the ingredients, both active ingredients and inactive ones, in your skincare products before you buy them to make sure they are beneficial to your skin. For some additional information on ingredients to look out for, check out Know Your Skin: Basic Skin Care in 5 Steps. And if you have flare ups of a skin condition, or feel you need the extra attention, seek out a board-certified dermatologist who can address your specific needs.