There’s no getting away from it, winter’s well and truly here now. Harsh winds, low temperatures, and dry air from heating sources indoors can all take their toll, leaching moisture from skin and causing it to become dry, flaky and irritated, which as well as being uncomfortable increases our vulnerability to infection. And of course, loss of elasticity in the skin also causes wrinkles and creases and could even (horrors!) lead to premature ageing. But don’t despair – just a few simple seasonal changes to your skincare routine can help stave off the winter gremlins, keeping your skin supple and healthy and naturally glowing.
Hydrate from the inside out.
It’s just as important in winter as it is in summer to make sure you get plenty of fluids. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol will cause your body to lose even more liquid, so rather choose water, herbal tea, decaffeinated coffee and tea, or soup. What you eat counts too, and you should make sure you’re consuming enough fatty acids (especially omega-3) to maintain the protective bubble of lipids around your skin cells. Step up your intake of oily fish like salmon, sardines or mackerel, and consider including tofu, walnuts, soybeans and flaxseeds in your diet. A supplement of evening primrose oil or fish oil could benefit your hair and nails as well as your skin.
Cleanse with care.
Tempting though it is on a bitterly cold day, showering or bathing (or even just washing your face) in extremely hot water is not a great idea – it will break down the lipid barrier of your skin and strip it of natural moisture. It’s better (if you can bear it!) to use lukewarm water, or at least to finish off with a cooler rinse to close your pores. Avoid using harsh scented soaps, especially on your face, and instead go for a gentle moisturising cleanser containing vitamin E, plant extracts or natural oils. Pat your skin dry with a soft towel rather than rubbing it. If possible, allow your skin to ‘settle’ for at least thirty minutes after washing your face before you go outside.
Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise!
There’s no doubt that your skin needs heavier armour in winter. For your face choose a good emollient cream or lotion, preferably one containing aloe vera or essential oils, and make sure it also contains sunscreen. Massage it gently and thoroughly into your skin to form a nourishing protective layer after shaving in the morning and again before going to bed at night. Don’t forget the rest of your body: feet, elbows and hands can be particularly prone to dry, taut, flaky skin and you should apply a rich nourishing lotion to these areas at least twice a day. Keep a tube of moisturiser easily accessible, in your gym bag or your car, and use it often.
Don’t keep licking sore dry lips as this just intensifies the problem. Rather be vigilant about using lip balm, applying it frequently throughout the day and before going to sleep. You can remove dry flaky skin from your lips by brushing them gently with a toothbrush once a week.
Deal with dead cells.
Gentle exfoliation will remove flaky dry skin cells and allow moisturiser to penetrate better. Choose a mild natural paraben-free scrub for your face and make it part of your cleansing routine once a week. For your body you can use a skin brush, available at pharmacies, or make an effective scrub by mixing half a cup of coarse sugar with one cup of coconut oil. Apply with gentle circular motions and rinse off with lukewarm water. As an added bonus, you’ll probably smell good enough to eat!
Some final thoughts: resist using a lot of antibacterial hand wipes and gels, as their alcohol content can dry the skin out. Make sure you get enough sleep, to allow your skin time to repair and rejuvenate itself; and remember that regular exercise helps the circulation and keeps skin healthy and vibrant. Consider using a humidifier in your bedroom at night to keep the air moist – even a bowl of water or some large-leaved plants in the room can make a difference.
And we hope it’ll be a wonderful winter – for you and your skin!