Overcoming the Effect of Winter on Our Skin
As if the cold of winter isn’t bad enough, the change in season can also wreak havoc on our skin in the form of dull appearance, rough texture, dryness, redness, itchiness and, in severe cases, the formation of painful cracks and fissures. To combat Mother Nature’s assault, a mix of intense therapy and preventive techniques are required. But before we get into what to do, let’s understand why these changes occur.
On average, our skin loses approximately one pint of water each day through a process called trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), whereby moisture is pulled from the surface of the skin into the environment. In winter, when there is less humidity in the air, TEWL increases significantly. This is the scenario that sets into motion all of the winter skin characteristics outlined earlier. The situation intensifies due to our tendency to take long, hot showers at this time of year and to wash our hands more often to avoid the germs that cause colds and flu. Doing so deteriorates the skin’s acid mantle, the protective film that kills bacteria and regulates moisture loss. Thus, our skin becomes even drier while being at an increased risk of infection.
But wait. It gets worse.
Because the skin is inadequately protected by the acid mantle and has far less moisture content than it requires, the skin doesn’t function properly. The skin’s natural exfoliation process – cellular turnover – slows down and dead cells begin to collect on the skin’s surface, giving it a dry, ashy appearance. As this dead skin layer thickens, the dermis layer begins to thin and slows down its production of new skin cells. The result is skin that is uncomfortable, unsightly and unable to properly heal itself.
To alleviate this cycle, the following steps are recommended:
- Begin by using a cool air humidifier in your home to keep humidity levels up. While it’s helpful to have one in each of the rooms you primarily use (as well as your office or workplace, if possible), at a minimum, use one in your bedroom.
- Limit the length of showers and use moderate water temperatures. Be sure to use body washes and cleansers that are formulated to be gentle on the skin. Bar soap should be avoided, as it strips the skin. (Glycerin soap is a good alternative.)
- Limit your use of hand sanitizers and, if you must use them, avoid those that include alcohol.
- Use body lotions and moisturizers that are rich in humectants and be sure to apply throughout the day. Again, these products won’t add moisture to the skin. Instead, they will prevent the evaporation of moisture. Two great products to try are Night Moisturizer (use during day or night on dry skin) and Hand & Body Lotion, both of which are formulated with a base of organic, pharmaceutical-grade aloe vera to penetrate the skin and promote healing.
- Exfoliate regularly using a product that is safe for the skin. (Tip: avoid scrubs that include granules and other harsh substances.) Doing so not only prevents the buildup of dead skin cells and stimulates cellular turnover, it also allows moisturizers to be more effective. Consider AloeGlyC®, which has a pH level near that of a doctor’s office chemical peel but formulated with a base of aloe vera to minimize redness and inflammation.
- Even though the sun shows its face less during colder months, the daily application of sunscreen remains necessary. Outdoor enthusiasts must be particularly careful as the sun’s reflection off snow water creates a more powerful exposure.
- Make the use of lip balm a daily habit. Lips are more prone to moisture evaporation than the rest of our skin and, thus, they tend to be among the first areas of skin to dry out.
To learn more about winter skin issues and how to treat them, click here to read an article from Lexli founder and lead formulator, Dr. Ahmed Abdullah, featured in the October 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.