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  • Dr Kathryn Holmes

Get Skin-Ready and Survive Winter!

Noticed stuff going on with your skin lately? Wondering why your skin is more sensitive, drier, flakier and red? And what’s with the peeling feet, crinkly leg skin and dandruff?

Simply put – Winter! Cold, dry air takes away the thin layer of oil that usually protects the skin and keeps moisture in, and this can result in the flaring up 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. This year we have the added issues of COVID lockdowns resulting in us being unable to visit our regular skincare clinic until now.

Generally in winter, we have two different things 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 of that protective oil. Ironically this can make our skin sometimes feel excessively oily, as our cells try to help by overcompensating 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, but there's plenty you can do to help:

SHORT SHOWERS – No one wants to get out of a beautiful hot shower in winter, but these lovely showers will contribute to dryness. Keep showers short and not super hot. Also, avoid traditional soap as its high pH causes dryness and irritation.

MOISTURISE – Moisturising regularly is the key – a good time is straight after a shower. There are many good inexpensive over the counter products or seek customised advice from a skin therapist. If you have an especially dry area, for example, lower legs, you could even wrap some glad wrap over the cream for 30 minutes to help absorption. Don’t forget your hands and feet. They have fewer sebaceous (oil) glands than the rest of your skin, which means they are more at risk of dryness. 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 products, like 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 but reduce the moisturising effect.

CHANGE THE AIR AROUND YOU – Use a humidifier to increase air moisture experts say that humidity levels between 30% and 50% should be your goal.

EAT WELL – Healthy skin starts from within. We now know about the gut/skin axis, meaning that what happens in our gut can directly affect our skin. Some foods are inflammatory and will only make our skin irritation worse. Saturated fats and foods that make our blood sugar spike contribute to skin inflammation. Alcohol also dehydrates, so sadly, the red wine by the fire won’t be helping your skin!

DRESS FOR LESS IRRITATION – If you have sensitive skin choose fabrics that are soft and breathable, like cotton, rather than wool or polyester.

PREPARE YOUR FACE WHEN YOU GO OUTSIDE – We still need sunscreen in winter. The UV index, not the temperature, is the most important thing to check in the morning. Over 3, and sunscreen is a must. Don’t forget your lips and have that balm handy. Even use it on the end of your nose, if it is irritated and red.

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.

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.

Dr Holmes is the Founder and director of the Mayah Clinic at Lakelands. Skin Health and Wellness is the goal for every client with personalised management plans. Treatments include brow, lash and facial care, Microneedling, Cosmetic tattooing, Broadband Light, Erbium, Halo and Cold Lasers, Thermismooth and Trusculpt iD body sculpting.

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