How to combat winter skin dehydration

Monday, 24 June 2013

Dry skin in winterIt happens year after year – as winter sets in, it seems to suck the moisture right out of our skin. There are a number of reasons for this – in fact, under the top eight causes of dry skin listed by the New Zealand Dermatological Society, three of them are linked (directly or indirectly) to winter weather.

These are:
Cold weather, especially in tandem with wind or low humidity.
Central heating or proximity to a fan heater or fire.
Bathing or showering frequently, especially in very hot water.

Dry skin can manifest in various ways, but when caused primarily by dehydration and not linked to genetic or metabolic factors, it usually appears as cracked or flaky skin, sometimes accompanied by itchiness (often referred to as the ‘winter itch’). In more extreme cases, a condition known as dermatitis develops, causing an itchy red rash to appear in splotches on the skin. Biting winter winds and icy temperatures, coupled with the measures we take to avoid them, can spark these skin problems, as well as exacerbate existing conditions.

Banish dry skin this winter with these top tips:
Take omega-3 supplements, or be sure to include plenty of the foods containing them into your diet, advises Doris Day, an assistant professor of dermatology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in oily fish, such as salmon and tuna, as well as in some nuts and seeds, especially walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds.

Use a moisturiser that is packed with anti-oxidants, ingredients that help skin hold on to water, skin-repairing ingredients, and anti-inflammatory ingredients, says Paula Begoun, a well-respected US cosmetics watchdog and author of 20 best-selling books on skin care. “Avoid products with drying or irritating ingredients, such as alcohol, peppermint, menthol, mint, citrus, eucalyptus, and fragrance,” she adds.

Begoun also advises against using loofahs or skin scrubs containing abrasive ingredients such as nut fragments: “Rather use a well-formulated alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta hydroxy acid (BHA) product that can help skin cells turn over in a more natural, youthful manner by removing the build-up of old skin cells and replacing them with newer, smoother ones,” she says.
Select a sunscreen carefully, and use it daily, without fail. Sun damage renders the skin less able to retain moisture. (Note: Legislation around sunscreen ingredients and UV protection has recently become a hot topic. Check CANSA’s website for more details and a list of recommended Colipa-compliant sunscreens available locally).

Avoid all cleansing products containing soap –instead, opt for soap-free bathing and shower creams or oils. Also stay away from products that contain harsh cleansing ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate.

Apply jojoba oil after showering – research published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the British Journal of Dermatology and Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, confirms that jojoba oil is a natural moisturiser that helps individual skin cells to retain water. And it protects against an array of common bacterial infections to boot, so helping to promote healthy skin.

And, while it’s tempting to immerse oneself in endless steaming baths or huddle up to the fire, be aware that such practices dehydrate the skin and try to keep them to the bare minimum.

Other articles you may be interested in:
Dry skin remedies

Written by

After spending most of the last decade working as a journalist and editor in Thailand and travelling the East, Cindy returned to the Mother City in September 2010. She has written for a wide spectrum of online and offline publications in both South Africa and SE Asia and is passionate about reading, writing, food, globe-trotting and cats.

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  1. Azraa

    Thanks, great article… Hope it’s the end of winter now!

    5 years ago •

  1. Clueless_Cutie

    Very useful during this time of year!

    5 years ago •

  1. Adele

    My skin is so dehydrated after this winter. I will try this, thanks for the article.

    5 years ago •

  1. Sager

    I find the Jean D’ Aveze is best for my face (which is very sensitive) and Vaseline intensive care still seems to work best for my body

    5 years ago •

  1. Carlene

    Very helpful advice as dry winter skin remains a problem for me!

    5 years ago •

  1. Pseudo_kate

    My legs are always the driest part of my body, so I keep my showers very short. Then I put on an oil, let it sink into my skin for a few minutes, then put on body lotion. It helps so much. I’ve also noticed that since I started drinking a lot more water about 2 years ago – my skin no longer is as dry and itchy as it used to be.

    5 years ago •

  1. RoseAngel

    I use Bioderma in winter for me and my kids. It is just amazing

    5 years ago •

  1. Zellikinz

    Thanks for the reply and tips! :)

    5 years ago •

  1. Sammy

    Thank you for this article, and im guilty with the hot showers. Great tips too.

    5 years ago •

  1. Miss Tee

    drink pelnty of water and use lots of baby oil when you step out of the shower and aqueos cream

    5 years ago •

  1. Mpoyif

    Wonderful & useful advice! Thank you

    5 years ago •

  1. DebbieT

    My cheeks get so dry in winter so a very helpful article.

    5 years ago •

  1. Ladyconfused

    Oh my, I hardly have the time to read all the contents of all the products I like but will need to make a plan, but I find plenty of water and moisterising helps a lot.

    5 years ago •

  1. BeautySouthAfrica

    Hi Zellikinz
    If you have the occasional breakout, opt for a face wash that contains salicylic acid, and that is soap-free. A gel cleanser works better for combination skin. In terms of moisturisers, try stick to something from the same range as your cleanser, and make sure it’s light and oil-free. Neutrogena, Garnier and Dermalogica all offer fantastic skin care ranges for combination and problematic skin.

    5 years ago •

  1. Zellikinz

    After reading this i had to go look at my Yardley Skin Even cream, and it contains alcohol and citrus. I will be off to go buy a new moisturizer soon. I have combination skin that’s also prone to acne. any recommendations?

    5 years ago •

  1. Tundee

    I even had rash on my cheeks… Keeping my face mosturised helped a lot though. Great article

    5 years ago •

  1. NaturalDiva

    i started using virgin coconut oil on my skin after my baths and my skin is soft and hydrated throughout the day

    5 years ago •

  1. Noma

    It’s mostly my lips that get dry in winter..

    5 years ago •

  1. Pannack

    These tips are great! I would now have dry skin and use some of these tips

    5 years ago •

  1. me

    Moisture! Moisture really is the answer.

    5 years ago •

  1. DIVA

    Thanks for the article, its very formative, we really need to know whats in the products we are using.

    5 years ago •

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