There's no denying that autumn is rapidly drawing to a close and winter temps are coming our way. It seems that there have been more cold-snaps this year resulting from some pretty nasty artic chills moving in. As the beautifully coloured leaves fall and the mercury drops, we can't afford to neglect our self-care, especially as it relates to our skin. As our largest organ (and the most exposed) our skin bears the brunt of the impact the harsh conditions of cold weather brings. Of course, everyone's skin is different, but we'll examine some essential skin care related things you should be doing during the winter months.
For some of us, winter with its short days and sometimes unappealing outdoor conditions is a time when we don't feel highly motivated to do, well, much really! Staying as warm and cosy is at the forefront of our mind, and it's not hard to feel tempted to skimp a bit on the skin- care, or at least, not to adapt our usual routine to one that our skin needs at this time. The drop in both temperature and humidity levels causes our skin to lose essential moisture and can mean dry, flaky, red and itchy skin. People with skin conditions are particularly susceptible to the change in climate. I have always had drier, eczema-prone skin, and so I know that come winter months, I have to make changes to my routine and products to maintain healthy skin.
Keeping your skin in the best possible health will go a long way in preserving your emotional wellbeing. Dealing with skin issues and not looking your best can negatively impact on how comfortable and confident you feel, and can rob you of your joy during these cold, dark months. So prioritising your skin in your self-care activities is really of paramount importance for your physical and emotional wellbeing alike. Here are a few winter skin care musts.
Admittedly, even for an avid water like myself, drinking glasses of water regularly somehow loses a lot of its appeal. Yet, staying hydrated is essential in allowing the skin to retain its moisture (not to mention to keep your other organs in good working order!).
As cliché as it might sound, it never hurts to remember that our bodies are composed of around 60% of water (while ¾ of the brain and heart are water, ⅔ of the skin is water). And so keeping hydrated is crucial in maintaining proper body function.
I find keeping a water bottle on my desk filled with water and a squeeze of lemon (gotta have that extra dose of Vit. C!) encourages me to drink more water. Another good trick to up your water intake and retention is to switch out some of the caffeinated beverages we intake to non-caffeinated, herbal teas.
Fun fact: researchers suggest that hot beverages don't actually have the desired effect of keeping you warm, but rather the opposite, as your brain tells your body to produce sweat to cool you down. So try tossing in some lukewarm drinks to have the dual effect of keeping your hydrate and warm.
Up the humidity
Our beloved indoor heating might keep us toasty but does our skin no favours. Replenishing the moisture in the indoor air helps our skin hold on to its moisture and combat the damaging effects of the dry air, which includes dull skin and premature aging.
Humidifiers are a great way to introduce moisture into indoor spaces, and have many benefits, which you can read more about here. Consider keeping small humidifiers in different parts of your home to counteract the effects of your central heating.
I love keeping a small, quiet humidifier in my home office. The one I'm currently using allows me to add a few drops of essential oil in it for the added benefit of a bit of aromatherapy while I work (citrus scents like tangerine or orange, and lemongrass are my faves).
Lower your shower temps
When I first moved to this chilly climate, I used to practically live in hot showers! It felt sooo good to have that hot water wash over my frozen body. I quickly learned the harmful effects of doing so on the skin, however. My skin was drier than it had ever been before, and no amount of lotions or creams seemed to get it back to normal.
So while a 20-minute steaming hot shower may seem very inviting on a cold winter day, try lowering the temperature towards lukewarm levels as much as you can bear and limit how long you stay in the shower. In doing so, instead of stripping your skin of its natural oils, which causes extreme dryness, you're helping to replenish water in your skin.
Bring on the moisturiser
Here's where the switching of your skin care products comes in. Your skin's needs change with the seasons, and in the winter, it's at its most vulnerable and arguably needs the most care. Products containing alcohol should be shunned, while thicker, more moisture-laden products should be at the core of your skin care rituals.
Oil-based products may not be best for everyone's skin type, but I certainly find them most effective on my skin in the colder months. Cream cleansers and daily moisturisers for the face are a must in providing protection and nourishment for this area of the skin which is most exposed to the harsh outdoor weather.
Many beauty and skin care brands do moisturiser lines well-suited for the winter months. For instance, Clarins Hydra-Essentiel Silky Cream comes highly recommended for rich moisture (they're offering free product samples at the moment).
As I have sensitive skin, I also love Avène products – they are free of preservatives, parabens, and fragrances. With its rich, yet non-greasy, composition, their Tolérance Extrême Cream fits the bill perfectly in delivering moisturised skin during the winter months. If you're new to Avène, they're currently offering free shipping.
Body lotion should also be of the oil-based, rather than water-based variety. I also like to add a spurt of body oil, or my new-found love, sweet almond oil which has tons of good stuff, including proteins, potassium, and zinc.
Use a facial mist
It's said that while face creams work to lock in moisture, facial mists when used before the cream, prepare the skin to receive moisture. It's also said to be a good way to replenish moisture throughout the day.
The good news is that facial mists seem to be easy enough to make at home. Get some how-to ideas here.
Removing the naturally-occurring dead skin build-up is important in allowing moisturisers to sink in and be most effective. Dermatologists don't recommend scrubbing of the face, but rather the use of a gentle moisturiser containing glycolic of salicylic acid.
There are some schools of thought that promote dry brushing. It's even something you might have seen as a treatment option at your favourite spa. But what is it? Essentially it's the use of a brush with firm, but naturally derived bristles (typically cactus) to gentle clear away dead skin. Although it seems some of the benefits of dry brushing, including cellulite reduction, improved circulation, and functioning of the lymphatic system are largely unsubstantiated by science, there seems to be at least consensus of it being a good way to exfoliate the skin, and for many, a way to soften the skin and feel more invigorated.
The notion of a ‘weaker winter sun' might discourage many to use sunscreen in the winter. However, research has proven that harmful UV rays are very much present in winter, just as in other seasons. UV rays damage the collagen and elastin of the skin, which promotes the formation of wrinkles and fine lines.
So wearing sunblock is essential year-round, and remember the general guideline is that it needs to be SPF 30 and above, plus protect against UVA rays. Reapplying is important too because according to The Skin Cancer Foundation, winter conditions such as snow and strong winds work to strip away sunscreen and reduce its effectiveness.
See a specialist
If you're experiencing issues like persistently dry skin, despite taking all of the above measures, or if you just want to get advice as to which products are right for your skin, you may want to drop in to see a skin specialist.
The folks at Mario Badescu are offering a free skin consultation at their New York location for those living nearby, otherwise, they have a skincare analysis questionnaire you can complete to get their recommendations for your skin's needs.
Winter can be a tough time in many ways, but take the pressure off your skin by showing it a little love and care. What are the winter skin care regimens and products you live by? Drop me a line in the comments.