By Simone Barrance, Naturopath, Adv. Dip. Nat.
Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and consists of three layers: the epidermis (or outer layer), the dermis (middle layer) and the hypodermis (the deepest layer). The epidermis itself is made up of five layers, the outermost being known as the stratum corneum. The stratum corneum consists mostly of dead skin cells, and creates a barrier between your body’s internal and external environments. This provides protection for your body as it prevents both foreign material entry into your skin, and moisture loss from your skin. The cells of the stratum corneum are surrounded by natural oils (including fatty acids and cholesterol), and the greater the oil content, the more moisturised your skin will be.
During the cooler months, exposure to the cold air outside can really irritate the surface layers of your skin, whilst indoor heating can cause dryness and redness by taking moisture out of the air, making the moisture on the surface of your skin evaporate more quickly. What’s more, your skin tends to produce less of the valuable oils in the stratum corneum during the winter. The result can be dry, red, itchy or flaky skin which can become very irritated and uncomfortable.
There are some simple things that you can do to help negate the harsh effects that cold air and indoor heating can have on your skin during the winter. Here are our “Top Tips” for keeping your skin healthy in the cold!
1. Keep the Air Moist
As mentioned previously, heaters take the moisture out of the air which can then go on to dry your skin, nose and throat. Humidifiers put the moisture back into the air, helping to minimise any chance of your skin or other respiratory tissues getting too dry. If you don’t have a humidifier, try not to have your indoor heating turned up too high- you don’t need to be hot, just warm.
2. Shower & Bath Temperatures
Keep shower and bath water temperatures warm, not hot. Hot water can strip your skin of many of its natural oils and tends, therefore, to make your skin quite dry.
3. Skin Care Routine
Changing your skin care routine during the winter months can also really help. Replacing your foaming cleanser which can be quite harsh and drying to a cream cleanser which can help to replace moisture is one way that you can help protect your skin. Using products or serums that contain natural oils such as rosehip oil, olive oil, vitamin E or coconut oil can be very beneficial. Try to avoid petrochemical based moisturisers and skin care products as they can dry skin further. You might also like to get creative and make your own skin care products.
Homemade moisturising face masks are a really simple and effective way to give your skin some extra moisture, whilst giving yourself a little TLC at the same time. You can mash up an avocado and add things like sweet almond oil, yoghurt, olive oil, jojoba oil, almond oil, honey, egg yolks, vitamin E oil or aloe. Mix it to a paste, apply it to your skin and find a nice cosy spot to sit and relax for 10 or 15 minutes before gently cleansing away.
4. Healthy & Fatty Foods
Eat plenty of healthy oils to help provide moisture for the stratum corneum. Fatty foods can provide some much-needed nourishment to dry, red and irritated skin. Be sure to include plenty of nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs (yolks) and fish to your diet, along with fresh, unprocessed oils such as extra virgin olive oil, almond oil, wheat germ oil and flaxseed oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a fantastic source of squalene which can help to provide strength and support for the membranes surrounding skin cells.
5. Stay Hydrated With Water
During the colder months, it is really important that you stay hydrated. Although it may not directly relieve dry, flaky or irritated skin, drinking plenty of water can help your skin cells stay plump and your skin stay smooth.
6. Mist Sprays
Mist sprays can be a godsend! You can purchase skin mist sprays from your local pharmacy or health food store, or again, you can get creative and make your own! You will need to find a spray bottle (usually around 100mL should be enough). Fill it almost to the top with some pure filtered water, add a couple of teaspoons of your favourite oil – jojoba oil or sweet almond oil, a few drops of your favourite essential oils – lavender or rose geranium are great, screw down the lid, give it a shake and away you go. You can apply it to any part of your body, whenever necessary to help freshen up dry skin.
7. Natural Loofah
Keeping the stratum corneum healthy by gently brushing with a natural loofah to remove some of the surface skin cells when your skin is dry can be a very effective way to help prevent moisture loss and relieve dry skin. Doing this 2-3 times per week during the winter will be enough to keep your skin smooth and healthy.
8. Natural & Unprocessed Oils
As moisturisers are generally designed to lock moisture in rather than provide moisture to your skin, moisturising straight out of the shower ensures that while your skin is still moist and soft, most of that moisture will be locked n. Natural and unprocessed oils such as coconut oil make great body moisturisers by providing a lovely fatty barrier from which moisture dare not escape!
9. Winter Clothes
Protecting your skin by covering up with gloves, scarves and a good quality sunscreen during the winter will reduce its exposure to wind, rain and winter sun which can all be very drying and irritating to the skin.
10. Irritants and Fabrics
Avoid irritants that can cause itching and redness from contacting your skin. Prickly fabrics can aggravate your skin and be a trigger or you to start scratching, and using harsh or heavily fragranced cleaning chemicals on your clothes, bed sheets and towels can also lead to skin inflammation – particularly in those with sensitive skin. Look for fragrance-free laundry detergents designed for sensitive skin, to minimise any potential for irritation from the fabrics that will come into close contact with your skin.
Winter time can be a very beautiful time of the year, and by applying these suggestions, your skin can also stay soft, moisturised and beautiful through the cold.