The cold weather can really take a toll on our skin. The lack of moisture in the air can leave the skin feeling cracked and dry. Read more...
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How does cold weather impact our skin?
The cold weather can really take a toll on our skin. The lack of moisture in the air can leave the skin feeling cracked and dry. We may acclimate quickly to the cold air from a comfort perspective, but your skin is still affected. The cold dry air draws moisture out of the skin. This leaves the skin appearing cracked like porcelain. Those little cracks can start to sting or burn and split further leaving the skin very uncomfortable.
Which parts of our skin are most susceptible to dry conditions?
Our extremities, in particular our hands, as well as thinner-skinned areas such as the lips are particularly susceptible to dryness. The hands are most often exposed outdoors to dry conditions for practical reasons, they are often left out of the layers we wear. This combined with repetitive hand washing and hand sanitizers further dry them out. Our lips are also hard to cover behind layers while outdoors. The moisture that accumulates on the lips from saliva will evaporate and further dry out the skin over time.
Does turning the heat on indoors help with dryness in the winter?
Depending on the heat in your home, work, or car, the added tension to your skin from dry heat can only aggravate the issue. For this reason, my first Winter Must-Have recommendation is to have Vaseline, Aquaphor, or Cerave Healing Ointment.
The benefit of petrolatum-based products is that they work by providing both an occlusive layer as well as adding hydration to the skin. Effective for so many winter skin-related issues- chapped lips, dry cracked skin, irritated eyelid skin, dry skin on elbows and knees. Remember these are used to treat AND prevent dry skin.
Can other products we routinely use start to become a problem in the winter?
Anti-aging and acne products tend to work by drying or exfoliating the skin. During humid months, the impact may not always be as obvious. However, as soon as the weather cools down, the result could be an exaggerated effect.
How should we change our skincare routine in the winter?
To address the effects of excess dryness from the environment we can either reduce the frequency with which we use our products or change them up entirely.
If you choose to change the frequency of use of your current products, try to still retain some consistency. It is common for people to use their products daily, experience excess dryness, stop their products, then resume them after the dryness improves- if they remember to do so! There is no reason for your skin to experience these extremes of excess dryness to heal to dryness again and risk forgetting to use your products. It is far more beneficial to your overall skincare goals to thoughtfully consider a change in frequency of use to every other day or twice weekly to gain the benefit of consistency while avoiding excess irritation.
The alternative approach is to consider products less associated with dryness as part of their effect.
For acne, my favorite go-to face product for breakouts in the winter is Azaleic Acid. This comes as a prescription as well as over-the-counter concentrations. Most traditional acne products work by drying or exfoliating. The lack of moisture in the air in the winter can only make this feel more sensitive or uncomfortable. This product is great for people who struggle with acne and sensitive skin. I use this under my makeup and find I am not greasy by mid-day, my makeup maintains a matte-like finish, and I do not tend to break out as easily.
What happens to our hair in cold air?
Another issue that dry air contributes to is hair static. If you have ever taken a scarf or hat off after being out in the cold, you may have noticed your hair becoming a little more challenging to control. The friction of clothing against your hair creates a static charge. Normally the moisture in the air can conduct this electric charge away and you do not even notice it. However, when it's cold and dry, it will be hard not to notice!
One of the secrets to trying to control this is to introduce moisture to your hair. I start using leave-in conditioners to keep the static under control. These products tend to hold moisture to the hair without appearing overly greasy or oily. They keep my hair shiny and more manageable. My favorite products in this category are Ouai Leave-in Conditioner and Garnier Fructis Leave-in Conditioner.