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“Baby, it’s cold outside.”
When the cold weather arrives, you need to think about your skin. “Old Man Winter” can be harsh on your hide, so be sure you protect and care for it.
However much you might love winter sports or “walking in a winter wonderland,” a cold season is tough on your skin. The plunging thermometer means low humidity that’s drying and dehydrating.
Cold climates are arid, and they rob your skin of natural oils and moisturisers. Being indoors can make things worse, because indoor heating systems dehydrate your body.
Then when you seek the warming comfort of hot showers and baths, you strip out even more beneficial moisture and oils.
The result is that without protection and care, your skin can become rough, red, tight, flaky, and cracked.
The outermost layer of your skin is the epidermis. It naturally provides waterproofing and acts as a barrier to infection.
However, as your skin’s natural moisture is depleted, the epidermis becomes increasingly tight, itchy, and dry. Small pieces may flake off, and your skin may form hardened patches and calluses. Existing conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, may be exacerbated. In extreme cases your skin might even crack open (think of chapped lips, for example), creating wounds that not only are unattractive, but that expose your body to the infections that run rampant in winter months.
What can you do to prevent and treat skin damage in winter? Here are some tips:
Of course, you already moisturise yours daily, right?
In winter, it’s time to change your approach.
First, be sure you’re using a top-quality moisturiser. Spend the extra money. Your face will thank you.
Second, cut back on facial cosmetics. If you’re like many women, you coat your face with multiple products daily. As Hollywood makeup artist Jamie Greenberg puts it, “Women tend to look ‘cakier’ in the winter, due to the many layers of serum, moisturiser, eye cream, SPF, and foundation that we apply. Winter climates also have the tendency to ‘lock in’ the many layers on your face.” To protect and care for your skin, minimise the products you use—at least for a few months.
Third, instead of primer, foundation, blush, powder, and so on, just use a tinted moisturiser. Greenberg says, “While most people think that a light tinted moisturiser is just for summer, it’s actually perfect for allowing your skin to look breathable and fresh in the winter.”
Fourth, in addition to your morning and night-time cleaning and moisturising schedule, wash your face at midday and again in early evening with a mild cleanser and lukewarm water, and reapply moisturiser.
Are yours kissable or missable? Choose a good moisturising lip balm and use it every one or two hours and at bedtime to keep the skin of your lips soft and supple. If your lips do become chapped, flaky, and dry, try this trick: Use a clean, moistened, soft-bristled toothbrush to stimulate your lips and to exfoliate—you’ll see results in just a few days.
Be sure you apply a good moisturising cream at least five times daily. Use a very gentle soap and warm—not hot—water and slather on the lotion after each hand washing. Know that your cuticles are problem areas in cold weather, so pay special attention to them. Ask your manicurist or spa for a paraffin wax treatment to moisturise your hands and keep them baby soft.
Finally, know that an old-time movie-star trick for “perfect paws” is to apply heavy moisturiser to your hands before bedtime and cover them in thin white cotton gloves or socks to keep the moisturiser on while you sleep.
Of course, most of it is heavily swathed when you go outside in winter. Nevertheless, your body’s skin suffers in cold months. Find a heavier, thicker, higher-quality moisturiser than the one you use in warmer weather. Apply it each morning—ideally as soon as you exit the bath or shower; this will help “lock-in” the moisture. Then wash it off gently with warm water (but no harsh soap) before you go to bed, so your skin can breathe all night. You may wish to apply a lighter moisturiser to your body at bedtime as a night cream.
If you’re used to washing your hair every day, don’t! In winter, a daily shampoo can rob the hair and scalp of natural, beneficial oils. Try to wash every third or even fourth day, if you can. At least once each season, ask your salon or spa for a hot-oil hair and scalp treatment; this will heal winter damage.
Wear plastic gloves when you do the washing up, and use lukewarm water in the shower or tub. Yes, we know, that hot shower or tub feels great, but it is very drying for the skin.
When you go outside, be sure you wear gloves, a hat, and a scarf. And use sunscreen. The winter sun can be just as bad for your skin as the summer sun.
Heating systems dry out your skin. Consider a humidifier, or at least put a pan of water near the heat source in each room to keep the air—and your skin—moisturised.
You’re probably aware of the need to stay hydrated in the summer, but did you know it’s important in winter, too? Drinking sufficient water—at least two litres per day—will hydrate your skin from the inside out. Be aware that strong coffee and some teas are diuretics that deplete the moisture in your body, so turn to plain water for hydration. And we hate to be a buzz-kill, but beer, wine, and spirits are drying to the skin, so use these in moderation.
Scaly skin is just plain ugly. And moisture can’t get in if dead cells are too plentiful. Use a loofa or a scrub. Ask your spa for an exfoliating face and body treatment. The result will be skin that’s healthier, smoother, and younger-looking.
If your body becomes too hot during the night, it doesn’t release enough human growth hormone to repair your cells. When you snooze at a cooler temperature—in thin pyjamas or perhaps even au naturel—human growth hormone goes into action, repairing and smoothing your skin.
Your diet affects every cell in your body, including your skin. So cut down on sweets and products with excess salt, such as crisps. Eat your five fruit and veg daily, and choose whole grains when possible.
Make sure you’re getting sufficient nutrients, including vitamin C and zinc. Consider an omega-3 supplement, or add flaxseed to your diet for softer, smoother skin.
It’s hard to think about getting outside to walk or jog when the cold wind is blowing, but your skin needs for you to exercise. Try walking in the long corridors of a shopping mall for a half hour three times a week. Or join a gym or a spa.
A relaxing full-body massage with organic moisturisers does wonders for your dry skin. Oils that can protect skin in winter, rehydrate dry skin, and heal damaged skin include apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and calendula oil.