Throughout winter you may have seen changes in your skin texture as there is less moisture in the air. Also, going from the cold outdoors to heated indoors can cause additional drying of the skin and cracking of the lips. As the spring season comes around, your skin can struggle to get adjusted to the fluctuations in temperature.
The 4-1-1 on Winter Skin
A lot of research has been done in those with chronic skin conditions such as eczema and acne to evaluate how their skin changes during the winter and the repercussions on their chronic conditions. Interestingly enough, in a study of individuals with acne, skin changes were noticed in both those with and without acne. These changes included a lower production of the fats that make up the skin barrier and decreased barrier function which translates into lower moisture retention . The reason this happens is because the outer layer of skin, the stratum corneum (SC) produces fewer ceramides. Ceramides are the component of fats in the skin barrier which are involved in holding water and allowing permeability of skin . This is what helps us absorb skin care products better. People with eczema and psoriasis seem to have either fewer or abnormal ceramides which can affect their skin barrier chronically .
Here are three ways to support your skin during the change of season.
1. Hydration Basics
Your skin provides a barrier of protection from the outside world. This includes protection from injury and environmental exposure, such as dust, pollution and ultraviolet radiation . It is also designed to prevent excessive water loss and retain moisture. Having adequate hydration of the skin is important as the temperature fluctuations can cause excessive dryness and cracking. Find a moisturizer which works well for your skin without leaving it too greasy. This should be a moisturizer which either helps repair the skin barrier or increase function and production of ceramides. Moisturization is best done right after a shower when the skin is still slightly damp and pores are open to allow better penetration of the product.
Aside from this, hydration of the whole body is important. This means drinking enough water throughout the day and limiting liquids which can be dehydrating, such as alcohol and caffeine. According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommendations of water intake for women are 2.7 L per day and 3.7 L per day for men. This of course is based on body weight and activity levels throughout the day.
2. Scrubbing Up on Exfoliation
Moisturization during winter is incredibly important, but something that is often overlooked is exfoliation. Not to mention that the type of exfoliator you use matters as well. Skin exfoliation can either be done via a chemical exfoliant, such as glycolic acid, or a small particle exfoliant such as ReLiv Organics’ Seaweed Microderm Cleanser + Mask. This mask and cleanser combo is ideal for those with sensitive skin, as the highlight ingredient, seaweed, provides vitamins and minerals needed for healthy skin while delivering anti-inflammatory properties.
Exfoliation allows for removal of the outer layers of skin, allowing products to penetrate better and provides a smooth surface for make-up application. It could be especially helpful to exfoliate “winter skin” away to allow for a fresh layer of skin to come through. Exfoliation can be done twice a week depending on how your skin tolerates it.
3. The Building Blocks of Skin
This refers to the nutrients and vitamins that help support skin health. Firstly, the skin barrier is made up of fatty tissue, and structural proteins such as collagen and elastin. These building blocks of skin can be obtained by eating adequate healthy fat and protein . One source of healthy fats which have been used for conditions of chronic dry, cracked skin are omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils . Omega-3 fatty acids are often low in typical Western diets which are rich in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s can be found in high amounts in cold water fatty fish, and in much smaller amounts in vegetarian sources such as algae and ground flaxseed.
Antioxidant vitamins are also important to produce healthy skin cells and decrease excessive inflammation. Specific vitamins and minerals for skin health include vitamins A, C, E, and zinc. These can be found in foods such as brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Skin changes during winter are common, due to lower ceramide production. This can leave you prone to excessive water loss and dryness. Going into the spring season, it is important to support skin through adequate hydration, routine exfoliation and providing it with the right nutrients.
By: Dr. Arlene Dubier ND
- Meyer, K., Pappas, A., Dunn, D., O Cula, G., Seo, I, Ruvolo, E. & Batchvarova, N. (2015). Evaluation of seasonal changes in facial skin with and without acne, Journal of Drugs and Dermatology. 14(6), 593-601.
- Ishikawa, J., Yoshida, H., Ito, S., Naoe, A.,, Fujimura, T., Kitahara, T. & Takema, Y. (2013). Dry skin in the winter is related to the ceramide profile in the stratum cortneum and can be improved by treatment with Eucalptus extract, Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 12(1), 3-11.
- Rawlings, A.V. & Harding, C.R. (2004). Moisturization and skin barrier function, Dermatologic Therapy, 17, 43-48.
- Bouwstra, J.A & van Smeden, J. (2016). Stratum corneum lipids: their role for the skin barrier function in healthy subjects and atopic dermatitis, Current Problems in Dermatology. 49, 8-26.
- Balic, A., Vlasic, D., Zuzul, K., Marinovic, B. & Bukvic Mokos, Z. (2020). Omega-3 versus omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory skin diseases, International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 21(3), 741.