Winter’s cold dry air and the dry indoor heat can be hard on your skin. As the humidity decreases, the skin becomes much more susceptible to dryness. Often times, people are still using lighter-weight moisturizers and drying cleansers, because they have not made the transition yet to their “winter” regimen, but there are strategies to help keep the skin on your face and body soft, supple, and strong through the winter season.
Start being aware of the change in humidity before the skin gets dry, flaky, and itchy! One easy way to transition the skin as the seasons shift to winter is to use a liquid cleanser in the shower that has moisturizers in it and transition to a heavier moisturizer—even if only on the extremities initially. We have a lower concentration of oil glands on our extremities, and these are the areas that suffer first from a shift in the weather and humidity. Keep your shower as brief as possible and use lukewarm, not hot, water. Apply a moisturizer while your skin is still slightly damp.
Ramp up your moisturizing. As the winter reaches full-swing, the whole body will need more moisture, but the greasier moisturizers will probably be intolerable until later in the season.
If you use a lightweight lotion in the summer, switch to a heavier cream or ointment. Get one that you scoop out of a jar or squeeze from a tube; pump formulas are often diluted with water or alcohol, reducing the ability to seal in moisture. Occlusive-based moisturizers such as petrolatum, mineral oil, vegetable oil, are all very effective in sealing in moisture at the skin’s surface, but are often sticky and greasy—and especially uncomfortable in the summer. However, these “heavy-duty” occlusive moisturizers, or at least creams and lotions with these components, can be critical in the winter months to prevent moisture loss from the skin.
I recommend heavy moisturizers that tend to be less greasy. For richer, occlusive moisturizers that achieve this goal, I often recommend oil-free occlusive options. These include silicone and its derivatives: dimethicone, cyclomethicone, and amodimethicone. These occlusive agents hydrate dry skin, improve the barrier, and improve the overall texture of the skin. However, for those patients that still find these silicone-based moisturizers too intense, I recommend humectant-based moisturizers that function by attracting water into the outer layer of the skin—the stratum corneum. Humectants that can commonly be found in moisturizers include urea, lactic acid, glycerin, propylene glycol, pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA), propylene glycol, and sorbitol. Additionally, many manufacturers have developed moisturizers that contain lipids that are similar to those native to the stratum corneum, such as ceramides.
Sunscreen tends to fall off the radar for many people in the winter time but it is still important to protect your skin. Although UVB rays may not be quite as intense—they are still present. And UVA rays are just as strong as the summer! Daily sunscreen application is essential in the winter time as well.
One important piece of advice I give my patients is explaining to them that dry skin can happen suddenly—even if you have never had dry skin before. Over time, oil glands in the skin become less active. As we age, our natural ability to maintain hydrated skin decreases. An important aspect of this is that the dryer the skin, the more apparent are the fine lines and wrinkles. An instant, efficient way to improve your overall appearance by minimizing the appearance of wrinkling in the skin is to moisturize.
Dr. Chris G. Adigun and her team offer a comprehensive dermatology practice that delivers the highest quality care through careful patient evaluation and personalized treatment.
The Dermatology & Laser Center of Chapel Hill is located in The Veranda at Briar Chapel: 58 Chapelton Court, Suite 120, Chapel Hill. Contact via phone, 919.942.2922, or online at: DermatologyAndLaserCenterOfChapelHill.com