Dry, itchy, sore – we’re all familiar with how uncomfortable our skin can feel in the colder months. This is especially true if we spend extended periods outdoors, whether it’s heading out on frosty morning dog walks or taking an icy plunge when wild swimming.
Winter skin can range from chapped lips to cracked skin, and from irritating to downright painful. However, dry and damaged skin doesn’t have to be the price we pay for spending time out in nature during the chillier seasons.
Robin Fisher, the head of fragrance at ARRAN Sense of Scotland, believes that we should take extra care with our skin in winter: “The drying impact of cold weather can have a huge impact on our skin, which is the biggest organ in our body and should be cared for all year round, especially when the temperature drops.
“Seasonal dry skin is prevalent in winter due to the extended period of cold weather causing water loss from the outer layer of skin. We also find our skin to be less moisturised in the colder seasons because of over-exposure to indoor heating systems like central heating, wood-burning stoves, space heaters and fireplaces, which reduce humidity and increase dryness.”
Keep reading to learn how you can protect your skin in winter…
Your skin barrier – the outermost layer of your skin – is the protective shield between your body and the outside world. It’s what helps your skin retain water and moisture to keep it feeling supple and hydrated. Think of it as your barrier to the world.
According to Healthline: “Symptoms such as dryness, itching, and inflammation can alert you to a disturbance in this important barrier.” And, when damage to the skin barrier does happen, you can become prone to bacterial, viral or fungal skin infections, patches of scaly skin, inflammation and itchiness.
Time spent in harsh weather conditions in the winter depletes this barrier, resulting in dryness. This isn’t limited to the face and can affect any part of your body.
Robin advises: “Adding regular moisturising products to your daily routine will help to keep your skin’s protective barrier healthy.
“Products which include an occlusive ingredient (meaning they create a physical barrier on top of the skin to keep it moist and hydrated) like beeswax or cetearyl alcohol can help prevent moisture loss. Humectant ingredients (ingredients that attract water to the skin) like pro-vitamin B5 or hyaluronic acid, attract and bind water to the skin. These ingredients actively work together to reduce dryness across the body.”
So, if you spend hours in nature, remember to protect your skin barrier before you head out and after you come in.
Tip: Before heading outside for an extended period, lather up any exposed skin. Apply a thick barrier cream, lip balm and SPF to your face, and finish with a nourishing hand cream.
There’s nothing like coming in from the cold and warming up with a steamy shower or hot bath, especially if you’ve gotten muddy or chilled through. But pause! Hot water dries your skin out, and the more you indulge, the worse your skin will get.
The reason for this is that heat melts away the protective oils that coat your skin and keep it supple, thus making it dry and itchy. That’s not to say you have to give up having a long soak in the bath – you just need to take a slightly more careful approach.
Robin explains: “Reducing your bath or shower time to 10 minutes as well as lowering the temperature slightly can help to keep dry skin at bay. In addition, using shower gels or bath products with moisturising essential oils and pro-vitamin B5 can help add extra softness to your shower routine.”
Once you’re out of the bath, applying a rich body lotion or moisturiser all over your body is essential to keeping it feeling soft and itch-free. For those with sensitive skin, opt for unscented options and those made from just a few ingredients made from natural products (coconut oil is an excellent option).
As a rule of thumb, you should give extra skincare attention to areas of skin that are exposed to the elements, such as your face and hands (though a trusty pair of gloves makes the best barrier).
However, even the parts of your body you keep covered up in winter can get dried out, especially when you warm up in hot baths, sit in front of a fire post-exercise, or turn your heating up.
“Remember, moisturising skin doesn’t stop after your hands,” says Robin. “Despite skin being the biggest organ in the body, we often forget that we should be regularly moisturising all of it.
“Areas that can be forgotten include elbows and knees, both prone to cracked and dry skin in cold weather. The neck and decolletage area and legs are also often overlooked.”
Tip: Does the cold make your eyes water? Experts from Supplement Doctor advise: “Applying a thin layer of Vaseline to the corners of your eyes can act as a protective barrier, helping to shield against the harsh effects of cold weather and reduce excess tearing.”