There’s no doubt the coldest months of the year can be rough on your skin.
"Winter skin can be stressed skin,” says health coach Connie Rogers. "We’re colder so we take hotter showers, we turn up the indoor heat, we stress drive our vehicle through the snow, eat more, lose our motivation to exercise, drink less water and more alcohol.” It’s not just the weather that’s harming our skin — the way we try to deal with the weather isn’t doing us any favours either.
And for some people, dry skin is about more than feeling tight and flaky: if you have a condition like psoriasis or eczema, wind and cold air can really exacerbate the condition. "My top recommendation for anyone with super dry psoriasis skin like me would be to moisturize,” says photographer Michael Freeby. "Definitely find the most emoliating moisturizer possible — alcohol-free, fragrance-free and paraben-free if possible. Try to avoid ingredients like witch hazel, eucalyptus, citrus and anything else that could further irritate your skin."
Fortunately there are many different products available for a variety of different skin needs, as well as lifestyle choices you can make that can help you get through winter with skin that’s not unbearably dry, tight, and itchy. Read on for nine ways to have your best winter skin.
Up Your Home Humidity
If you don’t have a humidifier at home, this might be the time to consider one. "Ensuring an adequate humidity level in the home can help prevent dry skin,” says Dr. Alain Michon, medical director of the Ottawa Skin Clinic. "Over the cold winter months, due to less humidity outdoors during colder weather and the effects of indoor heating systems decreasing the humidity levels in the home, dry skin can be worsened.” Try sleeping with a humidifier in your bedroom — as a bonus it can also help keep your nasal passages dry, avoiding winter irritation.
Shorten Those Showers
A long hot shower is a great way to warm up in the winter, but it’s not a great way to keep your skin in good shape. "Keep showers under five minutes and skip the scalding hot water,” says aesthetician Gregory Dylan. "Excessively long showers with super hot water will dry out the skin by wearing away its natural oil barrier."
Lock In Moisture
Using moisturizer regularly can really make a difference in fighting winter dryness, but using it properly is also important. “Pat skin dry and immediately apply moisturizer over slightly damp skin,” Dylan says. "This will absorb better and lock in moisture.” If time is tight, try an in-shower moisturizer like the shower smoothies made by Lush.
Watch For Eczema
The particularities of winter weather can be tough for people with eczema, a common skin condition characterized by skin irritation, itching, and pain. "For eczema specifically, the combination of low temperatures and low humidity can worsen symptoms,” Michon says. In addition to trying a humidifier, moisturize regularly. If you have eczema on your hands moisturize and put on gloves before going outdoors, he suggests.
Psoriasis Can Act Up, Too
Psoriasis, an autoimmune condition that affects the skin, can also worsen in cold and dry weather. Regular moisturizing and the use of a humidifier are good practices here as well, Michon says. "Additionally, sitting in a warm oilated oatmeal bath can help alleviate the unpleasant itching symptoms,” he says.
Most people can get away with heavy moisturizers on the body even if they can’t on the face. "Keep symptoms of dryness and eczema at bay with rich body moisturizers,” Dylan says. "Super emollient balms and creams with shea and cocoa butter will soften skin while easing dryness and itchiness."
Avoid Alcohol On Your Skin
In your skin care, we mean. "Many products marketed for dry skin actually contain alcohol in one or more forms,” says Rachel Delia, founder of Flask Brands skin products. "Alcohol has been shown in studies to further dry and irritate skin.” Pay attention to ingredients not only to look for coconut and shea butter, which are good for your skin, but also to look for those that are drying like alcohol so you can avoid them.
And In Your Body
This time we mean the kind you drink. Alcohol is dehydrating, which you know if you’ve ever woken up with a hangover and the feeling of having cotton balls shoved in your mouth. It also causes an inflammatory reaction, which is why some people get red-faced when they drink and stay that way over time if they drink too much. If you do drink, counter the dehydrating effect by drinking water between cocktails or beers.
There’s no miracle food that’s going to give you great skin, but a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and healthy fats will show up on the outside as well as the inside. Get five servings of produce a day, take in plenty of liquids, enjoy healthy fat sources like avocado and olive oil, and reap the dermatological (and nutritional!) benefits.