Dry, itchy and uncomfortable...It’s Not your ugly Holiday Sweater. It’s your Dry Winter Skin!
Is your dry winter skin driving you insane? The itchiness, the cracking, the flaking...Is it making you feel like you have some sort of facial dandruff? Well, unfortunately, dandruff shampoos won’t work on your face and the products you pile on seem to do nothing against the dry, cold weather conditions! So, what can do to bring back that dewy glow you had all summer long? Read our expert guide on rescuing your dry, winter skin...
Sure there are snow-covered hills to play in, snowmen to build, or if you’re in a more moderate climate, rain to splash in. But, another common theme of winter is dry, flaky skin that can sometimes be a problem.
“As much as we complain about the heat and humidity in the summer, it’s likely that summer is when your skin just acts better,” explains Dr. Jessica Krant, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York. “Winter is the opposite. Acne tends to get worse in the fall after the sun goes away, and all those irritations return.”
Breakouts can be especially bad in winter, because when skin dries out, it’s not only flaky, itchy, and red, but the outer cells of the epidermis dry out. And when cells get dryer and flatter, they lose plumpness, translucency, and the ability to transmit and reflect light. This can result in dull skin and more visible wrinkles! But, what can you do when you don’t understand the causes of winter dryness?
Luckily, we’ve outlined a few of the main culprits, along with some simple and inexpensive solutions:
Problem #1: Not Switching Up your Skincare Routine
Winter calls for a different skincare strategy. Maybe your skin could handle intense scrubs and soap-based cleansers in the summer months, but they're probably too harsh for the dryer winter season. "You don't wear the same clothing in February that you do in August," explains David Bank, founder and director of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Mt. Kisco, NY. "So why would you expect to use the exact same skin care regimen?"
Solution? Opt for a milder, gentler cleanser for the winter months. One that has a hydrating formula that will trap and seal in water. There are also many reasonably priced drugstore brands, that won't dry or irritate your skin. But, be careful what you select. Some cleansers are more gentle and moisturizing than others. Look for beneficial ingredients like essential oils, jojoba oil, and shea butter oil, or a mild cream or milk formula without any alcohol or fragrance.
After washing, Bank recommends that you blot your skin with a towel to leave a bit of dew, instead of completely drying. "In the colder, dryer months, every water molecule becomes precious, and you don't want to waste them," he says. "If they're sitting there anyways, let's catch 'em, trap 'em and seal 'em in." So immediately after cleansing, while you have those water droplets, apply your moisturizer.
Gentle scrubs can also do wonders, as they remove dead skin cells and allow moisturizers to penetrate more deeply. We recommend PCA Skincare’s DRY SKIN RELIEF BAR (available at Élan Beauty; $50.00). This cleansing bar, with soothing, humectant, and anti-oxidant properties, gently accelerates the removal of excess skin, which is a common problem in severe dry skin conditions.
Problem #2: Frequent Bathing and the Love of Hot Water
Frequent hot baths or showers can be a problem. Sure, they feel good on a cold, winter’s day, but too many trips to the tub can irritate or damage the outer layers of the skin.And all those layers of clothing won’t help shield your skin from winter’s itch, if those steamy hot showers beforehand have already dried you out.
Solution? Bank suggests switching to warm baths and showers in the winter months. “Don't use water that's too hot or too cold," he says, “because either extreme could injure or damage the outer layer of skin – whose function is to retain moisture."
Extra Tip? Take A Fortified Bath! Boil a large pot of water with one cup of chamomile tea leaves and one cup of rosemary. Cook these for 15 minutes. Then strain and add this water to your bath. Not only will you feel relaxed from your day, but this mixture will also sooth your skin and make those ugly, dry patches disappear!
Problem #3: Low Humidity in the Air
According to Harvard Health, and the department of Dermatology, “dry skin occurs when skin doesn’t retain sufficient moisture. Wintertime poses a special problem because humidity is low both outdoors and indoors, and the water content of the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin) tends to reflect the level of humidity around it.”
Solution? Buy a humidifier.Humidifiers help because they produce more moisture within your environment. Dermatologists recommend keeping a humidifier in your bedroom, office, or anywhere else you spend a lot of time. You can find portable ones that meet almost every space and budget requirement. “For those of you who are afraid of bacteria (which can sometimes accumulate in a humidifier), you can even get a little one that attaches to a mini water bottle,” suggests celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas. There are even ‘cool mist’ varieties that won't grow bacteria.
Remember: It’s important to change the humidifier filters as recommended by the manufacturer and use distilled water instead of tap water for best results.
Problem #4: Thirsty Skin and Not Enough Moisture
Skin moisturizers are your main line of defense when combating dry winter skin. They rehydrate the epidermis and seal in the moisture. Although there are many commercial products available for dry, flaky skin, it’s finding the right one that can sometimes be tricky.
There are generally two ways to go: You can use a thicker and greasier moisturizer. Some of the most effective and least expensive are petroleum jelly and moisturizing oils, such as mineral oil, which prevent water loss without clogging pores. Other moisturizers contain water as well as oil, in varying proportions. These are less greasy and may be more cosmetically appealing.
Solution? In winter, people tend to reach for the heavy moisturizers, explains skin guru Dhwani Kapur. But that is a common mistake. When your skin is very dry, the weight of the product shouldn't be the only criteria. She advises using a moisturizer without any alcohol or artificial ingredients. "Look for products that contain natural oils such as avocado, rosehip, ginkgo biloba, macadamia nut oil and shea butter. These ingredients not only help combat dry skin, they also improve circulation in the skin, promoting a healthier glow."
We recommend PCA Skincare’s COLLAGEN HYDRATOR (Available at Élan Beauty; $52.00) It has a rich blend of humectants and emollients and is formulated for maximum hydration. It alleviates skin dryness and provides excellent antioxidant benefits!
Just apply your moisturizer when your skin is slightly damp and this will help to lock in hydration. Then protect your skin from the elements with a good sunscreen or a facial cream that contains at least SPF 15 or higher.
Extra Tip? You may not believe it, but oily skin can also dry out! There is a myth out there that people with oily skin should skip moisturizing because it will lead to breakouts. But, that's especially untrue if you're fighting acne with medication. Certain medications can be drying and if you skip your moisturizer, the extra dryness can trigger inflammation, which will only lead to more breakouts. So, if you suffer from acne, dermatologists recommend using a lightweight formula that's labeled as oil-free or noncomedogenic.
Problem #5: What you Eat and Drink
What do alcohol and coffee both have in common? They’re not just some of your favorite winter beverages, they’re also some of the worst enemies of your skin! Why?
It’s well known that caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and soda,act as diuretics, causing you to lose fluids, whichcan lead to dehydration. But so can alcohol, which, during this festive season, might seem like a drag.
“While festive beverages such as holiday cocktails and coffee drinks can add to the high spirits of the season, the alcohol content and caffeine can potentially lead to drier skin. This is the opposite of what you want,” explains Tarbox, “because you not only have to compensate for the heater being on and the internal air being dry, but also the water loss that you're having because of the beverages that you may be enjoying."
Solution? Increase your fluid intake. The best source: Water and/or seltzer. Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses a day, for your overall health, and if you indulge in a few caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, “drink one glass of water for each alcoholic and caffeinated beverage you consume,” suggests Tarbox. “That will decrease the dehydration you suffer and will also reduce the symptoms of the potential holiday hangover the next day."
Our tip? Not a big fan of water? You can also get fluids from vegetables, soups, and fruit. Water-filled foods such as melons and cucumbers are a perfect choice! And if all the veggies and water don't help your skin, try PCA's exclusive HYDRATING SERUM! (Available at Élan Beauty; $130.00) It’s a specialized blend of antioxidants, humectants and moisture-binding ingredients that are clinically proven to support the skin's natural moisturizing factor (NMF) and help maintain the moisture balance that is so critical for healthy, hydrated skin.
If all else fails, we recommend that you see a doctor. If you've followed these tips and tried a few different cleansers and moisturizers, and your skin still feels dry, visit a dermatologist or your primary care doctor, especially if your skin is itchy. It could be a sign of some other underlying condition.
And, P.S: Don’t worry if your cheeks aren’t as soft as they used to be. Come summertime, your skin should bounce back to its lovely, lush and radiant self!
- What to do about dry skin in winter By Harvard Health Publications; url: http://www.health.harvard.edu/family-health-guide/updates/what-to-do-about-dry-skin-in-winter
- The Easiest Ways to Fix Dry, Itchy Winter Skin By Stephanie Saltzman;Allure.com; url: http://www.allure.com/beauty-trends/blogs/daily-beauty-reporter/2013/11/dermatologist-skin-tips-for-cold-weather.html
- Combating Dry Skin? SLU Dermatologist Offers Basic Tips for Hydration By Riya V. Anandwala; Saint Louis University- Dermatology Dept; url: http://www.slu.edu/rel-skin-dryness-1217
- Diet and Nutrition Q&A By Betty Kovacs; medicinenet.com; url: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=78645
- 9 Ways To Combat Winter Skin By Stephanie Nolasco; Fox News Magazine; url: http://magazine.foxnews.com/food-wellness/9-ways-combat-winter-skin
- Winter skin care: How to treat dry skin By Jessica Padykula; canadianliving.com; url: http://www.canadianliving.com/style/beauty/winter_skin_care_how_to_treat_dry_skin.php
- How to Prevent Dry Winter Skin By Laura McMullen;US news; url: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2013/11/26/how-to-prevent-dry-winter-skin