Winter Care for Healthier Skin
Our skin simply isn’t happy with winter. Whether it’s buried beneath layers of clothing or exposed to the elements, skin can be itchy, irritable and uncomfortable — not to mention cracked and chapped lips. Here, some ways to help.
Handle with care. Dry skin is fragile, so be kind while washing and drying. You don’t need expensive products — a gentle cleanser like glycerin soap will do the trick. Despite the chill in the air, it’s still better to use warm rather than hot water, and don’t linger too long in the bathtub (no more than 15 minutes) or you’ll risk losing precious moisture and nourishing oils. When you reach for the towel, avoid rubbing your skin and pat dry instead.
Avoid irritants. Our favourite products may be part of the problem since the harsh chemicals and perfumes in detergents and grooming products can aggravate the skin. Cleaning products can strip moisture and oils from your skin, and allow potentially dangerous toxins to seep in.
Moisturize regularly. For daytime wear on the face, use a moisturizer with at least SPF 15. Baby oil is an option for extra-dry skin, and aloe vera and anti-oxidant ingredients provide benefits too. Avoid products with alcohol — they’ll dry out the skin. Feet and hands will need something much creamier and heavier this time of year.
The best time to apply is when your skin is still moist from the shower or bath so you can trap the moisture. Thanks to winter’s drying conditions, your skin may need an extra boost throughout the day — this is especially true for hands, which we’re washing even more these days.
Shun the sun. We know what the sun does to our skin, and it isn’t pretty. However, short days are no excuse to skip our sun-healthy habits. Even though the UV Index isn’t as high in the winter, snow and wet pavement reflect light back at us. Use sunscreen (or a moisturizer with sunscreen), a lip balm with SPF and don a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes as well as the delicate skin surrounding them.
Shelter from the elements. There’s a reason for the term “weather-beaten complexion”: the wind can dry out your skin, and constantly moving between warm and cold environments — like the office to the outdoors — doesn’t help either. Put your fashion sense to work with a hat, scarf, wrap or other protective clothing to cover exposed skin, especially when there’s a wind chill warning.
Use a humidifier. Dry air draws moisture from any source possible — including your skin. Indoor heating means our homes and workplaces are notoriously dry this time of year, and we’re spending more time in them. Hanging up wet laundry and setting out bowls of water can supply some relief, but you may need a humidifier to get enough moisture.
Experts note that 35 to 50 per cent humidity is ideal. A humidity gauge from the hardware store can help you keep track.
Exercise. It’s easy to give in to that sluggish feeling, but now is the time to fight it. We know exercise mitigates the effects of other ailments — like stress and fatigue — but your skin also benefits from a good workout. Good circulation means more oxygen and vitamins are supplied to the skin, helping it look refreshed and younger.
Eat right. Your skin is more than just an outer shell: it’s part of a complex system and it needs good nutrition too. The good news: the foods that are good for the heart and waistline are good for the skin too — like vitamin-packed fruits and vegetables, anti-oxidants, vitamin D and essential fatty acids. (Check out 6 keys to healthy eating for details.)
What you eat can affect your lips too. Constant exposure to acidic foods and liquids can have a damaging effect and can cause pain to all of those little cracks and sores.
Provide some pampering. Sometimes our skin needs a little extra help. A good soak, a gentle exfoliating scrub and nourishing treatments can help provide relief. Spa treatments make great gifts for special occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or birthdays, but you don’t have to go to the expense (or even leave your home) for some pampering. Many ingredients like oats, honey and yoghurt can be used to cleanse and moisturize skin. (See Do it yourself spa and European beauty secrets for ideas and recipes.)
Manage stress. There’s no way around it — stress negatively impacts your health and your skin is no exception. Stress can rob the skin of water, making it difficult for it to repair itself and heal. Studies have also shown that stress triggers the release of certain chemicals like cortisol that can worsen skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and acne thanks to increased oil production. Cortisol can also break down collagen — which your skin needs for elasticity.