Coping with dry skin in winter

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Skin becomes dry in winter months and if proper care is not taken it may lead to painful cracks, bleeding and infection. The primary cause of dry skin in the winter is the dehydration of the stratum corneum layer of epidermis and the decrease in the production of sebum.

In winter conditions even people with healthy skin can develop dry dermal conditions and as for persons already having dry skin, eczema, dermatitis, contact dermatitis, seborrhea and psoriasis the problems will aggravate.

Cross-section of thick epidermis and dermis
Cross-section of thick skin

In winter weather the humidity (moisture in the air) tends to be low and moisture from the skin is removed at a faster rate leading to dry condition. In winter weather people tend to use room heaters which further dry up the low-moisture air in the room.

Cross-section of thin dermis and epidermis
Cross-section of thin skin

To address this problem sufficient care must be taken to prevent loss of moisture from the skin as well as to additionally moisturize it. Following a regular skin care regimen we can tide over the dry winter months smoothly.

Hydration by drinking fluids in winter

Fulfilling our body’s water requirement takes care of skin moisturizing to a great extend. A normal individual requires up to one liter of water per day for every twenty kilos of body weight. Persons consuming insufficient water tend to become chronically dehydrated.

In such situation they are likely to have dry skin. In winter, even if we do not feel thirsty, we must drink sufficient water and fluids to hydrate our body, to avoid constipation and to remove toxic wastes from the system. Fruit juices give nutrients required for care of healthy body and repair dry winter skin.

As drinking aerated soft drinks is found to dehydrate our body, it better to reduce their consumption. Alcohol and caffeine present in alcoholic beverages and coffee have diuretic effect and remove water from the body. Hence their consumption must be avoided for care of dry skin. Alcohol and nicotine (smoking) are found to constrict capillaries and cut down blood supply to body organs, including skin.

Nutritional care of dry skin in winter

To have a healthy body and skin we should take care to eat healthy balanced food. During the winter when the skin has to face the dry conditions, any nutritional deficiency will have adverse effect on stratum corneum hydration, sebum secretion and desquamation process.

The food we eat must be balanced containing all the required nutrients. Our food must contain complete protein having all the essential amino acids. To achieve this we have to include protein rich food of both plant and animal origin.

To stop aggravation of dry winter conditions, sugar, sugar preparations, sweets and soft drinks must be avoided. Take care to avoid saturated fats. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats must be consumed in moderation.

However our food must contain sufficient quantities of essential fatty acids like omega-3 fatty acid and omega-6 fatty acid available in olive oil, vegetable oils, fish and fish oil. Sufficient soluble and insoluble fiber containing food must be consumed to ease bowel movement and avoid constipation.

Constipated material in the bowl release toxins which can affect the skin causing it to become dry and acne prone. Our food must also contain micronutrients like dietary minerals and vitamins. Any deficiencies can cause dermal problems especially during dry winter.

Skin cleaning and bathing in winter

For protection from dry winter conditions use chlorine free water for bath. Do not have more than one bath a day and make the bath as short as possible. Do not use hot or cold water for bath as it will cause dry skin; use lukewarm water. You can think of massage with olive oil or body oil before bath to lock in moisture.

Take care not spend more time in bathing. Long exposure to water removes the protective natural sebum layer. Use mild soap of PH 7 or less. Alkaline soaps remove the acidic protective layer and dehydrate the skin. After bath dab the skin dry and apply moisturizer to lock-in moisture.

Cleansing, moisturizing and exfoliating dry winter skin

Prefer cosmetics containing natural, organic and herbal ingredients like aloe vera, olive oil, honey, jojoba oil, calendula, oatmeal, tea tree oil, beeswax, and almond oil.

Clean your skin daily in winter, preferably before going to bed with alcohol free cosmetic milk, cleaning lotion or cleansers to remove the accumulation of grime, stratum corneum debris and remnants of makeup. Cleansing also opens up and cleans the pores.

Take care to apply moisturizer twice a day to lock in moisture. It is preferable to apply moisturizer soon after cleansing. Please note that your hands, feet and nails require moisturizer as they often come in contact with water. Try wearing hand gloves, when prolonged contact with water is required.

Hair also requires protection from being getting dry and suitable moisturizer and conditioner like olive oil can be used. Chapped lips are common in dry winter conditions and moisturizing lip balm can be applied regularly to protect them. Licking the chapped dry lips must be avoided as this aggravates the condition.

Exfoliating once a week in winter helps in skin rejuvenation. The skin debris get removed of their own in younger persons during desquamation process. As one ages the desquamation may not be complete and exfoliation will help in removal of dead skin and grime clinging on.

Careless use of cosmetics can flare up the dry winter skin condition. Take care not to use any skin care product containing harsh chemicals. Avoid using chlorinated water for cleaning as chlorine will make the skin further dry by removing the natural moisturizing oils and moisture.

Protection and care of skin from environment in winter

Even if it is winter, take care to protect yourself from exposure sun by using umbrella, sun protective clothing and wide brimmed hat. Take care to use sunscreen of SPF 20 or more on exposed parts of the body, when going out or getting exposed to sun. In longer exposures take care to apply sunscreen every two hours.

Take care to avoid exposure to cold dry winter winds and rain. Cold winds dehydrate the skin. Drenching in rain and using swimming pool also removes the protective natural oil from the skin. If room heaters are used in winter take care to install a room humidifier to counter dry conditions.

Treatment and care of skin ailments

If you are affected by skin ailments like itch, rash, eczema, dermatitis, seborrhea and psoriasis consult a dermatologist to treat them. In dry winter conditions, if proper care is not taken, the ailments can worsen and lead to many complications.

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Images of dry winter skin:
Author: Author Madhero88 and M.Komorniczak

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Coping with winter dry skin and skin care for winter