We are well into the winter season, and for a significant percentage of us, that means we’re experiencing cold, dry weather. And while lots of people might enjoy the winter months for the snow, the seasonal activities, and the ongoing excuse to snuggle up with a book and a hot mug of cocoa, there is one aspect of this season that is just plain bothersome.
When the winter months roll around, the relative humidity in the air recedes considerably. That means there is simply less moisture in the air. Cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air can. Add that to the forced air we use to heat our homes, (forced air heating systems tend to dry out the air), and the winter months become quite dry whether one is inside the house or outside.
So how can we keep our skin looking great and feeling great during the winter?
Why Our Skin Dries Out During the Winter
When humidity recedes from the air due to natural or man-altered causes, that means our skin does not absorb as much moisture as it usually would. Remember, our skin is a semi-permeable membrane. It acts as a protective layer for our bodies, but it also serves to transmit moisture from the environment into our skin.
Skin that is properly hydrated is healthy. Conversely, skin that is continuously subjected to dry air is going to exhibit all kinds of uncomfortable, unsightly symptoms.
The formula for having healthy, great-looking skin in the winter is simple enough. Let’s look at it this way:
- For skin to be healthy and to look healthy, it needs to be properly hydrated.
- While skin hydration does occur internally, (remember, our bodies are made up mostly of water), skin hydration also occurs via the absorption of moisture from the environment.
- When moisture recedes from the air due to cold temperatures or due to hot, dry forced-air heating, (or both), a person’s skin is no longer able to pull moisture out of the air. In fact, the cold, dry air serves to suck moisture out of the skin instead, drying the skin out and causing all kinds of uncomfortable, unpleasant symptoms.
Five Strategies for Keeping Skin Properly Hydrated in the Winter
The key to remedying or preventing dry skin in the wintertime is to take extra steps to hydrate and moisturize.
Here are some tips:
- Don’t Forget to Stay Protected.
A holistic medicine group called Everyday Health1 published an article on the causes of dry skin and various remedies for it. According to that article, our skin loses 25% of its ability to hold moisture during the winter months.
One of the best ways to protect the skin during the cold, dry season is to wear protective clothing and to stay shielded from the elements. Coats, hats, gloves, scarves, earmuffs, and plenty of layers help a great deal. The goal is to shield the skin from the elements, all of which helps to reduce the drying, moisture-leeching effects of cold weather.
- Use a humidifier when indoors.
When we spend a lot of time inside during the winter, we’re breathing and living in a dry (if thankfully warm) environment. That is particularly true with forced-air heating, though all forms of indoor heating will have some degree of a drying effect. To help reduce the effects of such heat, it’s important to put moisture back into the air.
This is where a humidifier comes into play. Humidifiers help inject moisture into the air, serving to increase relative humidity levels and to help reduce the effects of dry air on our bodies in doing so.
- Apply body lotion, face cream, and natural moisturizers daily.
It might sound like a chore, but a good, all-natural face cream or an organic body lotion is anyone’s best defense against the winter weather. People with dry skin should apply a rich body lotion to all areas of the skin immediately after showering, and again before bed. One should use creams with natural ingredients, like organic aloe vera, cocoa butter, coconut oil, Shea butter, sunflower oil, beeswax, Jojoba oil, Borage oil, Vitamin B5, Vitamin E, etc.
- Drink lots of water!
We might not get thirsty as quickly in the winter, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is especially important during the coldest months of the year, as this is the time when we lose the most moisture through our skin. According to Active2, we need to take extra care to stay hydrated during the winter months, not just for our skin health, but for lots of other areas of our general health and well-being.
- Be gentle on the skin.
According to a research paper by Harvard Health Publishing3, “Wintertime poses a special problem because humidity is low both outdoors and indoors, and the water content of the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin) tends to reflect the level of humidity around it. Think of the epidermal skin cells as an arrangement of roof shingles held together by a lipid-rich ‘glue’ that keeps the skin cells flat, smooth, and in place. Water loss accelerates when the glue is loosened by sun damage, over-cleansing, scrubbing, or underlying medical conditions — or by winter’s low humidity and the drying effects of indoor heat. The result is roughness, flaking, itching, cracking, and sometimes a burning sensation.”
The Harvard article goes on to talk about the importance of being gentle with the skin. The report advises its readers to use skin-friendly body washes instead of harsh, deodorant soaps. The article also recommends brief, lukewarm showers, bath oils, soap-free cleansers, regular and liberal usage of moisturizer, and the daily use of a humidifier.
Taking Care of Our Skin
For those of us with sensitive, dry skin, the wintertime is always a challenge to keep the skin looking and feeling healthy and fantastic. Thankfully, with the right preventive and proactive daily regimens, we can still have the lovely, bright, glowing, hydrated, and smooth skin that we desire, even during the coldest, driest time of year!
Our skin is our most prominent feature, the first thing anyone sees when they’re talking to us. We should take care of our skin just like we would our general health. We’ll feel better everyday, and we’ll look better too! It’s a win-win situation all around.