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Winter skin is caused by a combination of dry winter air and dry artificial air conditioning/heating, and it normally targets your face, particularly around your mouth and nose, your chin, and hands, but it can occur anywhere on your body. Our so-called “shield” of armour, known as the stratum corneum, is made from about 10-15 micrometres of dead-cell skin.
Scientific studies show these outermost layers play an important part in keeping essential moisture inside the skin. But when the humidity drops and winter chill creeps in, the outside air is drier. Then, making matters worse, we use radiators and heaters to stay warm inside, drying out those environments, too. Our stratum corneum “shield” starts to dry out, opening up the skin’s natural barrier. This is what makes your skin feel dry, flakey and itchy. Lack of moisture is the culprit here, so getting that moisture back into your skin and keeping it there is the main way to combat winter skin.
It makes sense that the first item on our list is to ensure your skin is moisturised regularly, and we aren’t just talking about your face. Invest in a heavier moisturiser, whether that be a butter, oil or body balm in the winter, as it has a thicker texture that seals the natural moisturising ingredients into your skin. Perhaps one of the most important and commonly overlooked steps in the dry skin game is changing to a seriously hydrating facial moisturizer – look for those that contain hyaluronic acid which can attract up to 1,000 times its own weight in water. It is best to use on slightly damp skin as the water will then be bound by the hyaluronic acid and delivered to your skin.
We can shed around 10 billion dead skin cells a day. During the winter months, while remembering to moisturise well, it’s important to exfoliate regularly to avoid a build-up of dead skin cells. Gentle exfoliation with a physical or chemical exfoliator helps to remove these complexion dulling cells and keeps your skin regeneration in check, while also keeping your skin looking its best. Look for physical exfoliators with natural moisturisers such as coconut oil or shea butter for your body, and facial exfoliators with glycolic acids, AHA and BHAs will gently exfoliate to reveal smoother and brighter skin.
A body brush will also help if you find your winter skin comes with a tightening sensation or rough patches. Gently sweep the brush over areas of concern in a circular motion (don’t scrub harshly as this can damage your skin) and follow with an oil or cream to replenish the moisture of your skin.
A common misconception is that dry skin will be solved by piling on creams and oils – the more, the better. However you can pile on all the lotions your want, but the health of your skin – which, after all, is made up of 64% water – is, largely dictated by your hydration levels. Water not only plumps the skin but it encourages collagen production which ensures elasticity and regeneration of the skin. It also helps to flush toxins out of the body that can lead to acne.
Without adequate water levels, your skin will appear dull, and fine lines, wrinkles, scars and pores will appear exaggerated as the face essentially shrinks into its tightest position. Drink the recommended two litres of water a day. Along with a daily SPF, it’s the single best thing you can do for your complexion.
When it comes to daily cleansing, it might be worth switching out your regular cleanser for a gel or oil-based cleaners depending on your skin type. Avoid face wipes at all costs, as they can be incredibly drying on your skin (not to mention being harmful to the environment).
Avoid soap-based cleansers and body washes, and switch these out for balms or cream-based alternatives. Apply toners and astringents sparingly, if at all. Many astringents contain alcohol, which can further dry your skin. Don’t forget your lips. Applying a moisturizing balm (such as petroleum jelly or another ointment) can help heal dry, cracked lips and keep them from getting chapped and cracked.
We get it, after coming in from the freezing cold, nothing can be better than a hot steamy shower, but hot water is the enemy when it comes to dried-out skin. Too much hot water causes evaporation of your skin’s moisture, making it more dry and dehydrated, leading to flaky, cracked skin that can be sore and itchy. Don’t stand under the hot water for too long either, as tempting as it may be – the maximum you will need is around ten minutes. Opt for moisture-rich shower creams and always follow with a thick body balm or butter to lock in moisture post-shower, and apply to your when your skin is damp for maximum absorption.
Even when there are six inches of snow on the ground, you still run the risk of sun damage on your skin, no matter your age or location. Unfortunately, people forget to apply their sunscreen during the winter months. Ultraviolet rays are still present even on the coldest and cloudiest days of winter (these are the ones that can cause premature ageing and cancer) and protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun is important when you are spending time outdoors. There are many products available that have added SPF, so look for a daytime moisturiser that has this added bonus ingredient.
When it comes to nighttime skincare, ensure you are taking advantage of your 8 hours of sleep by adding in serums that will restore and rehydrate your skin overnight. Because cell regeneration happens at its fastest in our sleep, your skin is able to take on more moisture and use it to its fullest potential while we sleep. Investing in an intense moisturising serum packed with hyaluronic acids will help your skin to feel its best when you wake up. Make sure to layer your products correctly, adding your serum before your moisturiser to help it penetrate your skin deeper. While we are talking about sleep, investing in a silk pillowcase will help to ensure all your creams and moisturisers stay on your face and don’t seep into your cotton pillow, so your skin can take full advantage.