One month of winter to go. Perhaps you have noticed stuff going on with your skin. Why is your skin more sensitive, drier, flaky, red? What’s with peeling feet? Crinkly leg skin? Dandruff? As temperatures drop, heaters and air conditioners turn on, and winds whip up. It can be a battle to maintain healthy skin. Dry air takes away the thin layer of oil that usually protects the skin and keeps moisture in. This can result in flaring of some skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. It also results in itchy dry skin and can cause a flaky, itchy scalp. If things aren’t quite that dramatic, it might just be a case of your skin feeling dry, less plump and dehydrated.
Two different things are going on, dryness and dehydration. Dryness is a lack of oil in the skin. Often we contribute to this oil stripping by using harsh creams or toners on our skin that makes it “squeaky clean”, but stripped off that protective oil. Ironically this can make our skin sometimes feel excessively oily, as our cells try to help but overcompensate in oil production. So it can be dry and/or dehydrated and feel oily.
Dryness will usually make skin feel rough textured, flaky and easily irritated. Dehydration is a lack of water in the skin. So it may not be flaky, but look dull and feel uncomfortably tight. Often dryness and dehydration appear together.
Let’s look at some ways to reduce and repair the impact of winter on your skin:
1. Short Showers – No one wants to get out of the beautiful hot shower in winter. BUT these lovely showers will contribute to dryness. Keep showers short and not super hot. Seems to be opposite to what you would imagine, but water on the surface of the skin is actually drying. It can reduce that natural protective oil layer. Heat speeds up the dehydrating process - sadly! Also, avoid traditional soap as its high pH is bad for skin and causes dryness and irritation.
2. Moisturise – You need to have a regular routine of moisturising in winter. A good time is straight after a shower. There are many good inexpensive over the counter products. Look for an “extra rich” product as these are usually oil based which is just what you need. Doing it regularly is the key. If you have an area that is especially dry (e.g. Lower legs), you could even wrap some glad wrap over the cream for 30 min to help absorption. Remember hands and feet. They have fewer sebaceous (oil) glands than the rest of your skin, which means they are more at risk of dryness. (ah - the answer to why your feet are suddenly pealy!)
If you have very dry itchy skin, you might find a cream like Lanate Body Cream with a mixture of hydration and an exfoliating agent works better. For face care, I’d recommend a visit to a specialist clinic, like the Mayah Clinic where you can have a personal skin analysis and be prescribed the best product. ( For example, Rationale UltraCreme, Mask or Proceramide balm.
Interesting fact: Did you know that lotions in pump bottles are sometimes diluted with water or alcohol, so they pump out better? This would not be good and would reduce the moisturising effect.
3. Dress for less irritation – If you have sensitive skin choose fabrics that are soft and breathable, like cotton, rather than wool or polyester.
4. Change the air around you – Using a humidifier to increase the moisture levels in the home can make a big difference. Experts say that humidity levels between 30% and 50% should be your goal.
5. Eat well – Healthy skin starts from within. We now know about the gut/skin axis – that is - what happens in our gut can directly affect our skin. There are foods that are inflammatory, and will only make our skin irritation worse. Saturated fats (yes, those fatty takeaways!), and food that makes our blood sugar spike (like sugar and white flour etc.) contribute to skin inflammation. Alcohol dehydrates also. Sadly the red wine by the fire won’t be helping your skin either!
6. Prepare your face when you go outside – We still need sunscreen in winter. The UV index, not the temperature, is the important thing to check in the morning. Over 3, and sunscreen is a must so its easier to always apply sunscreen as a rule. But in winter, you might want to apply a protective product like Rationale Proceramide Balm, or similar, providing a barrier to prevent moisture loss. Don’t forget your lips and have that chapstick handy. Even use it on the end of your nose, if it is irritated and red.
7. Care for your scalp – Dandruff can be a real winter problem. Your scalp is skin, and a dry, flaky, irritated scalp equals dandruff. If you’re losing hair as well - that might be another issue, and you should see your doctor, but otherwise find a good anti-dandruff shampoo ( ladies - there are products now that are gentle on your expensive hair colour!)
8. Reduce stress – A 2001 Archives of Dermatology report stated that stress affects the ability of the body to retain water. Might be one of the reasons that rosacea gets worse with stress. Dry skin is more irritable skin.
So now you’re all set to survive August and prepare that skin for the warmer weather!
For more information, visit: https://themayahclinic.com.au/ or contact Dr Kathryn Holmes and her team on: (02) 4954 5044