It 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.
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.
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Dry skin remedies