In winter, the low humidity levels combined with the freezing temperatures and blustery winds can leave the skin parched and strip the essential moisture. If you already have dry skin, this can result in redness, a tight feeling, and even severe conditions such as dermatitis. In those with sensitive skin, winter can affect the protective barrier and lead to more sensitivities.
So, it’s important to try and tackle these skin issues before they cause long-term damage. You can use plenty of techniques, such as wearing protective clothing when going outside and avoiding exposing the skin to indoor heating tools, to combat dry skin in winter. But most experts agree that the best defence is to follow a skincare regimen to keep skin hydrated in the cold season.
Here’s how to deal with dry skin in winter
Moisturise with the right product
The harsh, biting winds and low humidity levels can zap all the moisture out of your skin and leave it dehydrated, irritated, and flaky. To reduce the impact of winter on your skin, it’s essential to switch to a richer, more nourishing moisturizer and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to keep your body hydrated from the inside out.
Ana Vasilescu of Women’s Concepts has published an all-inclusive guide to the different types of moisturizers and how to choose the right one for you. The article got expert insights from Dr Luisa Fanzani, a Los Angeles-based cosmetic chemist, and gives the lowdown on what to look for in a moisturizer, including the importance of using a formula tailored to your skin and adjusting your moisturizing routine based on climate changes.
Ana points out that humectants, such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, the most used moisturizing ingredients in cosmetics, may actually worsen dry skin during the low humidity weather in winter. She explains that this happens because humectants pull water from the deeper skin layers rather than the atmosphere when the humidity levels are low, dehydrating the skin. There’s even a study that proves it. To avoid this, Ana recommends using occlusive agents, such as squalane and petroleum, in addition to humectants, to lock in moisture and prevent its evaporation.
Use the moisturiser at least twice daily to provide your skin with enough hydration for the day, and avoid using products with alcohol denat, as it’s a major culprit that strips the skin of moisture and causes dehydration.
Applying an ointment at night is also ideal, most doctors say. Compared to creams or moisturisers, ointments are thicker and more viscous. They are made of a mixture of oils, waxes, occlusives, and other ingredients that create a protective barrier over the skin. Ointments are ideal for treating extremely dry, flaky, or chapped skin in winter because they provide long-lasting hydration and prevent moisture loss.
Strengthen the epidermal barrier
The epidermal barrier, known as the outermost layer of the skin, is made up of lipids such as ceramides and fatty acids and acts as a shield between the skin and external damage. But during the winter months, this barrier takes a beating from the harsh winds and lack of humidity in the air, leaving skin vulnerable.
To repair your skin barrier from winter damage, there are a few things you can do, such as moisturizing and applying a regenerative cream made with ceramides at night. Supplying your body with vitamin C will also help since vitamin C is required for the formation of the epidermal barrier. Here’s a study that shows it. Using a vitamin C serum and having a healthy diet rich in antioxidants are the best ways to ensure your body has enough vitamin C to protect the skin from external threats.
Use a home humidifier
During winter, the air becomes very dry, and it can be difficult to maintain an optimal level of moisture in the skin. This can lead to symptoms such as flaky skin, redness, and itching. Using a home humidifier can add water molecules to the air, which in turn will help prevent dry skin. Turn it on before you go to bed, set it to around 60%, and let it run all night to ensure your skin has enough moisture to replenish hydration.
Drink more water
This goes without saying: drink at least 8 glasses of water per day, regardless of the time of year. Staying hydrated in the winter is essential, as the dry indoor air can dehydrate the skin.
Avoid products with fragrances, alcohol, and sulfates
Fragrances are often added to topical products to provide them with a nice and pleasant scent. Alcohols are used as preservatives to kill bacteria, and sulfates are often added to cleansers and soaps for their cleansing and foaming properties. But all these ingredients can strip the skin of its natural oils and impair the moisture barrier. This could have a bad impact on the skin, especially during winter, so it’s best to steer clear of products that contain them. Instead, consider soap-free cleansers, alcohol-free moisturizers, and fragrance-free formulas.
When to reach for a doctor
If your skin is severely dry and causing discomfort, itching, redness, cracking, or bleeding in winter, we highly recommend seeking medical advice from a doctor or a dermatologist. These symptoms can indicate a more severe skin condition, such as eczema or psoriasis, and a doctor can provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Additionally, if your dry skin does not improve with over-the-counter moisturizing products, it may be time to consult a doctor. Also, if you’re taking medications such as adapalene, hydroquinone or tretinoin, it’s best to consult your dermatologist before changing your routine and using new products.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.