For a large number of the population, the frost, clear skies and icy air typical of the last few months of the year bring dry, flaky and chapped skin. This dryness can leave the skin feeling uncomfortable, tight, and itchy, and most often occurs on the extremities of the body, where the cold air affects us most. Even worse, if you suffer from eczema, you might find your skin becoming almost unbearable to deal with.
But what is it about this time of year that leaves so many of us suffering from skin problems? To explain, we’ve put together a guide explaining the causes of winter skin, with some tips to help you hydrate your skin back to health.
Why do we get winter skin?
As you might imagine, the low temperatures typical of winter play a large part in drying out the skin. While it’s true that the cold weather does contribute to the formulation of winter skin problems, it’s also a combination of environmental and lifestyle factors that unfortunately lead to dry and itchy skin.
Winter is the time of year when the air is at its driest. Whilst the moderate humidity levels present in spring and summer serve to hydrate the skin, winter air lacks these much needed water particles. This means that at a most basic level, the skin isn’t receiving the level of moisture it needs.
Because of this, it can be tempting to spend a longer amount of time bathing to try rehydrate flaky skin. However, this can do more harm than good. Although it may sound odd, the hot water of showers and baths actually serves to dehydrate the skin. Our skin is, in a large part, hydrated by naturally occurring oils, which are partially washed away during showering. The tendency to shower at higher temperatures for longer during winter thus strips out more oil than usual, causing dryness. This is why our skin wrinkles after being in a hot bath or shower, as the outer layer of protective oil is washed away and replaced with water.
Another main contributor to winter skin is again connected to low humidity levels. However, this time it’s the lack of moisture indoors that’s the problem. Central heating, fires, radiators and air conditioning all lower indoor humidity and increase the likelihood of your skin drying out. Even further, getting out of a bath or shower into a heated house can cause the water on your skin to evaporate, which contributes to flakiness.
How do I prevent winter skin?
Due to the wide range of causing factors, it might seem difficult to avoid suffering the effects of winter skin at some point. However, there are a few things you can do to address the problem directly.
1. Eat Well
As ever, diet plays a large part in everyday health and wellbeing, and certain foods work to hydrate the skin more than others. Foods such as salmon, tuna, avocado and nuts all contain essential fats like Omega-3, which are important contributors towards the skin’s rehydration process. To stay healthy and firm, skin also needs a consistent supply of Vitamin C; berries are a good source, and are easy to incorporate into your everyday diet. Antioxidants are again important for the skin, as they quench the free radicles that lead to skin damage and ageing. Find them in colour rich fruit and vegetables; think sweet potato, carrots, squashes and berries.
Chronic skin conditions such as eczema can be caused or exacerbated by certain foods, so if you frequently suffer from dry, itchy skin, whether just in winter or all year round, it’s a good idea to assess the foods you’re eating. Eczema is common amongst children and adults, and although there isn’t a cure, it can be treated by having an awareness of the individual triggering factors. YorkTest found that 83% of adults who removed a problem food showed an improvement in symptoms, so if you think a certain food might be triggering your eczema or dry skin, it’s worth eliminating it from your diet.
2. Cut down your shower time
Though it may be hard to pluck up the courage to step out of the shower on those dark mornings, this is one tip your skin will be thanking you for. The longer you bathe for, the more likely your skin is to become dry and itchy. Set the water temperature slightly lower than usual, and only shower for as long as you need to.
Moisturising your skin works well as both a preventative measure and remedy for dry skin. If you can, try to use oil based moisturisers, and apply a thicker amount than you would usually use in summer. You can try adding a few drops of argan, coconut or avocado oil to your normal moisturiser, to increase its skin penetrating properties. It’s best to apply moisturiser immediately after showering, in order to replace any natural oils you may have lost.
4. Stay hydrated
As well as nourishing the skin externally, it’s also important to take care of it internally. If your body is dehydrated, your skin will be too, so it’s only logical that drinking more water can serve to ease the symptoms of winter skin. Drinking liquids can replace the moisture that cold air and constant heating saps out of your skin. You should aim for about 8 glasses a day; this can include herbal teas, such as peppermint or ginger. Take note however, that coffee and traditional teas act as diuretics, meaning they’ll actually dehydrate you.
5. Dress appropriately
If you suffer from winter skin, wearing the wrong materials can irritate you even further. Clothes made from wool and polyester can rub against you, causing chafing and increased perspiration. It’s a good idea to make sure the clothes directly against your skin are soft, and made from a breathable material such as cotton. Allowing your skin to breathe is especially important if you suffer from eczema, as trapped sweat trapped by clothes can cause flare ups and itching.
If you’re struggling with problems brought on by the colder weather, we hope these winter skin care tips give you the information needed to banish dry skin for good.
If you think food intolerance could be contributing to your winter skin problems, YorkTest might be able to provide the help you need.