It’s amazing how quickly your skin reacts to seasonal changes. Just yesterday, your skin felt hydrated and healthy, but today, it sprouted scales and began flaking off on your clothing.
Why does this happen so quickly? The cold weather has barely set in!
Well, there are several reasons for this sudden onset of dry skin. But the good news is, you’ve got some options to combat it.
Let’s first take a look at why you often get dry skin in colder weather. Because once you know why your skin gets dry so fast when the temperatures dip, you’ll be better able to ease your discomfort.
Winter Skin Tips: Why the Sudden Dry Skin?
Three key culprits can play a big part in dehydrating your skin during cold weather. These are:
1. Humidity Levels
Humidity is the amount of water vapor that is present in the air. You probably encounter high humidity most in the summer months – when the heat is “sticky,” and your clothes suck up all of that excess moisture, leaving you feeling wet and uncomfortable.
As it turns out, humidity does have one major benefit – it helps keep your skin moisturized. That’s why your skin often feels younger and more vibrant in tropical climates. However, in the winter, humidity levels can plummet. As a result, the water content in the epidermis (or outer layer) of your skin loses moisture. This can lead to itchy, cracked, and dry skin.
2. Indoor Heating
When it’s cold outside, you naturally want to crank the heater or fireplace up inside to get comfortable. The problem with this is that it not only lowers the humidity levels indoors, but it is a dry heat source that lacks any kind of moisture. This further strips your skin of its natural oils or sebum. And you need some sebum in your skin to keep it soft and healthy. It’s your skin’s natural moisturizer.
3. Hot Showers and Baths
Finally, there’s that last resort for all half-frozen humans –– a steaming hot bath or shower. Nothing warms you so completely after a frosty day out. But as that piping hot water warms your very soul, it’s simultaneously stripping your skin of its sebum, leading to redness, irritation, and flaky skin.
Now you have a situation where your sebum is being stripped during the cold weather by dry air outside, dry air inside, and by the heat of your shower. Your poor skin gets no respite!
All of these factors have the same common denominator: They strip your skin of its natural moisture. Now, not only does this mean itchy, dry skin, but it can also mean an impaired skin barrier.
You see, your skin relies on natural moisturizing oils to keep its barrier intact. This is the same barrier that helps protect your skin from irritation, breakouts, and irritation. And, if you already have a compromised skin barrier (if you, for example, have eczema or psoriasis), then these conditions can also be made worse.1
As you can see, your skin is highly sensitive to even the smallest of changes. So, what can you do to keep it from drying out as soon as the temps start to fall? The best thing is to have some winter skin tips up your sleeve, so you can protect yourself from dry skin during the cold weather season.
Winter Skin Tips: How To Keep Skin Moisturized
When considering effective winter moisturizers, you should look for products that can help rehydrate the outer layer of skin and seal in moisture for longer. These moisturizers usually fall into three groups, and you can use any combination of them. Keep in mind that when it comes to winter skin tips and moisturizers, it’s often by trial and error that you’ll find what works best on your own skin.
This type of moisturizer is great at pulling moisture into your skin. Humectants are moisturizers that include such ingredients as ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid. You’ve probably seen these ingredients listed on many skin care products. Hyaluronic acid is particularly popular these days, as it’s been shown that it can retain more than 1,000 times its weight in water.2 This means it’s not only super-hydrating but also able to help “plump up” your parched skin.
Emollients soften and condition your skin, keeping it moist and flexible. They contain lipids (fatty acids) that help keep moisture locked into your skin. It’s often suggested that you apply an emollient to your skin while it’s still damp, so it can further lock down that moisture.
Emollients can be creams, ointments, or lotions. Because they contain fatty acids, they’re often greasy feeling – sometimes too greasy for your liking. But if you want to help keep dry skin at bay, you’ll want to include an emollient rich in lipids in your routine. And the thicker, the better. Generally speaking, the thicker and oilier the emollient, the more effective it will be.
This is why emollients are seen as essential for helping soothe dry skin conditions, like eczema.3
Occlusives are similar to emollients, in that they help your skin retain its natural moisture. Some of the most common occlusive ingredients include petroleum jelly, silicone, lanolin, and mineral oil.4 Again, occlusives can’t produce moisture, but they help form a protective film that can lock moisture into your skin. As with emollients, they’re often best applied when your skin is still damp.
One of the more popular occlusives that have been getting a lot of attention lately is squalene. Now, the oily lipids in squalene are found naturally in your skin. But as you get older, your skin’s squalene supply slows down – drastically. You can help replenish it by using squalene oil. And the best part? Squalene usually doesn’t feel overly oily on your skin, which can be great if you’re not a fan of greasy moisturizers.5
Winter Skin Tips: Other Ways to Care For Your Skin
Say goodbye to irritation, redness, and flaky skin with these additional winter skin tips:
- Use a humidifier. Keep it set at around 50 – 60 percent humidity. This will help put moisture back into your indoor environment, even if you must face that dry air outdoors.
- Try to keep the temperature of your bath and shower closer to lukewarm, and try to take only one shower per day.
- Switch out soaps for body cleansers that are packed with moisturizing ingredients.
- Apply moisturizer immediately after you shower or wash your hands.
- Avoid wearing scratchy wool sweaters if they tend to cause you irritation or redness.
- Apply moisturizing lotions or creams at least twice a day.
Winter Skin Tips: Final Thoughts
Dry air, cold weather, dry skin, redness, and irritation – it can all feel a little unbearable, especially when even a shower offers no relief. But, if you can arm yourself with these winter skin tips and get more fatty acids back into your skin, you just might be able to hold onto a dewy glow all season long.