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Winter Dry Skin

When the weather changes during the onset of winter, our epidermal cells are impacted by the effects of over-exposure to heat sources, dry air, and cold wind. You might complain that your skin feels tight and dry. Your brows, hairline, and the sides of your nose begin to flake, and maybe even burn. Your hair feels brittle and sheds more, and your scalp feels tight and produces flakes the size of potato chips.

This time of year, if you have eczema, it will flare up. Your eyes may get puffy, your eyelids get wrinkly, and your mouth gets dry as a birdcage. At the same time, your lips become parched and the corners of the mouth start to crack. Skin care products and treatments seem way too drying now and your skin tone becomes blotchy. Your arms and legs are getting “ashy” and itchy, and your feet feel like hooves. Welcome to winter skin!

Lower the thermostat! Keep heat no higher than 68 degrees during the day and evening. Layer clothes and add a down comforter. Turn the heater off or lower it no higher than 55 degrees at bedtime. Rely on heaters to warm up the car before you get in. Then turn it off. Wear warmer clothing and footwear. Your skin, scalp, and sinuses will thank you!

Never stand close to heat sources, like heater vents, wall heaters, fireplaces, stoves, space heaters, or in a hot shower just to “warm up”. Never sleep in an overheated room.

Hard water alert: Hard water can cause the skin to become extremely dehydrated and develop a dull, darker ‘ashy’ skin tone. Install a water filtration system or cleanse/rinse the face in bottled spring or distilled water.

Hydrate from within. Increase your water intake if you drink too little water, live in a hard water area, you smoke or are exposed to any kind of secondhand smoke, drink alcohol or other dehydrating beverages, and/or take diuretics, blood pressure meds, antibiotics, cold or allergy meds, antidepressants, diet pills, sleep aids, anxiety meds, or any medication that can cause “dry mouth”.

How much water? Multiply your body weight times .67 to see the number of ounces you need. Add one extra cup for every serving of coffee, black tea, green tea, and alcoholic beverage. Did you know that herbal teas, flavored sparkling water and juices qualify as part of your water intake? If you hate plain water, try sparkling water, flavored mineral water, juices, herbal tea, and fresh fruits and veggies. Club soda, soft drinks, tonic water, caffeinated tea, green tea, or beverages labeled ‘iced tea’ do not qualify.

Fact of life: Decreased water intake, cold wind, dry air, interior heat, hard water, exposure to smoke, hot showers and baths, medications, dehydrating beverages and other factors can cause internal and external dehydration. So, if you’re tired, achy, run down, have trouble concentrating, and if your skin is feeling tight, flaky, itchy, wrinkled, getting irritated and you’re developing a darker uneven skin tone, you are probably dehydrated!

No long hot showers! Showers must be of short duration, and warm, but never hot. Instead, try a warm bath for 10 minutes, blot dry, and while skin is still a bit damp, apply an emollient body lotion to lock in moisture.

Hydrating skin treatments: Many professional skin care clinic treatments, masks, and facials can be customized to gently exfoliate and rehydrate dry skin without irritation.

Adjust home care for winter: Clients, especially mature clients and those with sensitive skin, may require different home care products as the weather gets colder. Tweak home care regimens so all potentially drying acne and anti-aging products are introduced very gradually and/or used less often during the coldest months.

Try a hydrating cleansing lotion. Switch from lathering gel cleansers and those that contain exfoliants like glycolic or salicylic acid, because they can strip and over-dry the skin. Use gentle, fragrance-free products, cleanse in lukewarm water, and moisturize immediately. Reapply moisturizer and lip balm often and be diligent with sunscreen.

Look to plain sunflower oil to double as both a non-comedogenic make-up remover and economical moisturizer for the face and body.

Use unscented, alcohol-free toners that contain hydrating ingredients like purified water, aloe vera juice, glycerin, sodium PCA, rose water, coconut water, hyaluronic acid, honey, and calming botanicals like cucumber and chamomile. Spritz thermal mineral spring water onto your skin throughout the day to add moisture without causing rebound oiliness or irritation.

Don’t attempt to scrub off dead skin cells with a washcloth, spa glove, loofah, spin or sonic brush, buffing pad, abrasive scrub, astringent and a cotton ball or microdermabrasion. Over-exfoliation can cause dead skin cells to build up faster and cause roughness, scaling, uneven skin tone and a dull appearance.

Exercise caution with clay masques. Apply masques generously and rinse them off before they start to dry out. A too-thin coat of clay mask dries too fast, so leaving it on after it starts to dry will suck moisture out of the skin. Try switching to hydrating cream or gel masques during the winter months.

Be consistent with home care. You shouldn’t skip therapeutic acne and anti-aging products for longer than a day or two, even if skin seems a bit dry. Instead, reapply moisturizer during the day where needed. This usually solves the problem and allows the skin to gradually acclimate to active ingredients. To avoid dryness and irritation, active skin care products should never be applied too thick, too often, or on extremely sensitive or over-dry areas.

Seborrhea, like cradle cap on babies, is caused by dead skin build-up and oiliness and may need special attention during cold weather. For severe build-up on the scalp, an exfoliating dandruff shampoo will help control stubborn flaking, prevent thinning and calm itching.

Seborrheic dermatitis on the face is common and often part of an “oily, sensitive skin profile” that gets worse in cold weather. To avoid drama, choose simple products designed for sensitive skin that are low-lather, alcohol-free and fragrance-free. A mild hydrocortisone cream can be used short term to address itching, dead cell build-up, and flaking on sides of the nose, brows, hairline, ears, and scalp until symptoms subside.

Radiant skin requires staying hydrated from within and on our exterior during the winter months. At the very least, we can drink more water, avoid smoke and pollutants, turn down the heater, avoid heat sources, keep hard water and soapy cleansers away from the face, take short warm showers, apply sunscreen and moisturize often!