It’s that time of year again when the leaves are falling, the air is getting crisp, and we start breaking out our winter wardrobes. Seasonal changes help to predict our clothing choices and those changes should also predict how we care for our skin. 

Winter months can be particular cold and harsh, which wrecks havoc on the skin due to water loss from the epidermis. Our skin is a hygroscopic organ, which means it has the ability to absorb moisture from the air (think moist, tropical climate) or, have the moisture pulled out of it (think dry, desert climate).  

Low levels of atmospheric humidity create cause a skin condition known as trans-epidermal-water-loss, which most people know simply as dehydration or, dryness. In addition to trans-epidermal-water-loss many individuals also experience a condition known as winter xerosis or, winter “itch”.  

Winter xerosis is caused from a lack of both water and oil in the epidermis, which causes an impaired skin barrier function. This impaired barrier manifests itself as dry, scaly, itchy, inflamed skin. Although people of all ages can develop this condition it is much more common in people over the age of forty and those living in areas where extreme climate changes occur. 

Just as a good winter wardrobe will protect your body from the elements; proper seasonal skincare will keep your skin looking glowing and radiant throughout the winter months. Listed below are some tips that will help to stave off the “winter skin blues”.

Hydrate your air-sounds silly, I know, but dry air is one of the biggest contributing factors to dull winter skin. Keep your skin hydrated by humidifying the air around you in both your home, and office.  Skin is happiest at 60 percent or above humidity and that level should be sufficient to replenish moisture to the top layer of the epidermis.

Banish the bath-think twice before soaking in a hot bath to take your mind off of the chilly weather. Hot water and surfactants from bubble bath strip away your natural moisturizing factors and can lead to dry, scaly skin. Try limiting yourself to one 5-minute shower per day using lukewarm instead of hot water.

Minimize the use of alkaline soaps-opt instead for moisturizing body washes, creamy cleansers, or oatmeal-based soap. Reduce the risk of abrading the skin and causing fissures (small, microscopic tears in the skin) by avoiding bath sponges, loofahs, and washcloths.

Moisturizer, moisturize, MOISTURIZE -apply moisturizers immediately after bathing or washing your face/hands. As we learned in remedial science class, oil and water don’t mix. When you apply and oil-based moisturizer while the skin is still damp, you trap the water into the tissue preventing evaporation and increasing hydration. Plump, hydrated cells equal happy, healthy cells!

Get on the “actives train”- using active, efficacious ingredients during the warmer months poses a challenge because of increased sun sensitivity that’s often associated with using sophisticated topical ingredients. Winter months are the ideal time to turn up the volume on your beauty regimen. Consider transitioning into using products that have corrective benefits such as vitamin A, ellagic acid, or salicylic acid if your skin is prone to breakouts.

Boost your ingredients- pay close attention to the amount of antioxidants in your skincare products to help boost production of collagen and elastin (the “youth” proteins in the skin) and keep skin looking soft and plump. Look for products that contain Vitamin C, green tea, peptides, alpha lipoic acid, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), and hyaluronic acid. Antioxidants bathe both in inner, and outer portions of the cells and help to increase the skin’s repair rate and encourage desquamation.

Feed your skin-diet has a HUGE impact on the skin.  We are what eat! Consuming foods that are high in Omega 3’s and other heart healthy oils can help to lubricate the skin from the inside out.  Eating foods that have a high ORAC value (oxygen-radical-absorbency-capacity) help to neutralize the free radicals that degrade connective tissue (collagen, elastin). When possible consume leafy greens, berries, spinach, cruciferous vegetables, nuts and seeds in their raw form to maximize nutrient absorption.

Drink lots of water- your skin contains lots of water and functions as a protective barrier to prevent fluid loss. Dehydration makes the skin look dry and wrinkled so hydrate the body internally to help maintain skin smoothness.

Avoid Allergens and Irritants- allergens and irritants can trigger inflammation in the skin resulting in redness and itching. Remember that winter skin is more delicate so stay away from irritating fabrics, chemical-laden detergents, fabric softeners and synthetic fragrance.

Exfoliate- Use gentle exfoliation to increase cell turnover and slough away dry, rough skin. If the dead skin cells are too abundant the moisture and nourishing ingredients can’t get into it to lubricate and protect.

Obviously winter and skin are not the best of friends but upgrading your skin care regimen will be essential to ensure you’ll maintain a hydrated, and glowing complexion this season. 

Stephanie Criscone has been in esthetics for fourteen years, owning her own wellness studio for ten years. Stephanie is also a certified massage therapist. She currently is certified as a health ambassador and is working on her certification in holistic nutrition. Specializing in clinical skincare, she has been an esthetics manager and educator at the San Francisco Institute of Esthetics for the past four years. She is passionate about combining her clinical and wellness background to provide clients with the ultimate results oriented experience.