Cold Weather Skin Care

green leafed plant and items on white surface

Winter is coming and that poses special problems for our skin.  Humidity is lower, both indoors and outdoors, during this season.  Dry skin can result in roughness, flaking, itching, cracking and sometimes a burning sensation.

As the largest organ of the human body, the skin has three layers that work together to protect our inner environment.

Skin Anatomy 101

The innermost layer is the hypodermis, mostly fat, which insulates, stores energy and absorbs shocks.

Above the fat is the dermis, the business part of our skin.  This is where the blood vessels, nerves, pores, hair follicles, sweat and oil glands reside.

The outer layer is the epidermis, our main level of protection and where dry skin can cause harm. The epidermis is made of layers of cells that are constantly transitioning from younger, living cells in the lower part, to eventually dying and sloughing off after reaching the surface.  It is a continuous process that takes about a month.

Types of Skin Moisturizers

  • Humectants attract moisture to the skin.  Examples are ceramides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid and lecithin.
  • Emollients seal spaces between skin cells to keep moisture in.  Examples are linoleic and linolenic fatty acids found in nut oils.
  • Barriers block the entire layer and are useful for protecting very sore, irritated areas. Examples are lanolin, mineral oil or petroleum jelly, coconut oil, shea butter.

Dry skin can lead to some serious skin problems.  Scratches and fissures can reach the dermis.  Once the barrier provided by the epidermis is disrupted, bacteria and toxins can enter the body.  Problems like boils, bad acne, chronic dermatitis, like eczema or even a systemic illness can result.

Just like the gut microbiome, our skin has its own beneficial microbiota living happily on our surface in balance with each other.  Using products such as antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizers, products with additives, like perfume or color may disrupt that balance and lead to overpopulation of another, potentially more problematic microbe.

Another, often neglected, part of the picture is that our bodies are two-thirds water.  We are constantly losing water through perspiration, respiration and excretion.  If you are not consuming enough water, your skin will suffer.

What You Can Do To Improve Your Skin

  • Keep the thermostat turned down
  • Use a humidifier in the house
  • Avoid hot water when bathing
  • Limit time in the bath or shower
  • Minimize the use of soap
  • Avoid fragrance, color and other additives in soaps, lotions and detergents.
  • Apply moisturizer as soon as you towel off or wash your hands
  • Drink more water

With a little prevention and attention to our skin, we will feel more comfortable as we hunker down for the winter.


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