Winter weather can be hard on skin. Wind and wet clothes can be irritating. Cold air causes the humidity to go down. And indoor heating can make the problem of dry air even worse. The result? Normal skin that’s dry, red, itchy, and maybe even cracked or burning, and flareups of skin conditions like psoriasis, seborrhea, or eczema.
Winter can be especially hard on seniors, whose skin cells don’t regenerate as quickly. Women past menopause may find their skin to be generally drier because decreased estrogen causes the skin to have less sebum. And teenagers may notice that the cold weather makes acne worse.
Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do, both externally and internally, to prevent or even heal the problems of “winter skin.” Here are a few tips to get you started.
Drink more water. The recommended “daily allowance” of water is 64 ounces. That’s eight 8-ounce glasses a day. If you keep your body hydrated your skin will reap the benefits.
Use a humidifier. Indoor heating may be useful, but in the winter – especially if you already live in a dry climate – it can make the air even drier. Humidifiers help return needed moisture to the air, and that will make your skin feel better.
Take shorter or less frequent showers, with warm rather than hot water. Hot water will remove natural oils that keep your skin moisturized. So keep the water temperature lower and your shower time to 10 minutes (or less). And if you bathe frequently – for example, twice a day – try to cut back. Some doctors even recommend bathing only every other day in the winter.
Avoid soaps with fragrances or those described as antibacterial or deodorant. These soaps can dry and irritate the skin. When in doubt, stay with products made for sensitive skin.
Use a moisturizer after every shower. The thickest moisturizers contain the most oil and are probably the best choice during winter. Plus, thinner ones may contain alcohol, which is very drying. If you’re shopping for moisturizer, check the label; if the list of ingredients includes alcohol, put the bottle back on the shelf and look for something else.
If you wash your hands a lot, for example as part of your job, use a moisturizer after each handwashing.
Prevent skin irritation when you’re outside. Wear gloves to protect your hands. Replace wet clothes with dry ones right away. And apply sunscreen to any skin that will be exposed to the sun.
Take essential fatty acids. These natural fats, which include flax seed, evening primrose, and fish oils, are good for the body in a number of ways, not the least of which is they moisturize from the inside out. You won’t see instant results; like anything taken internally, they’ll need to be distributed throughout the body first. But you will notice a difference – and it won’t just be to one area.
Winter doesn’t have to cause skin problems. With a little foresight and some extra care you can have skin that’s comfortable to be in any time of the year. Try a few of the above suggestions and watch your “winter skin” become a thing of the past.