With harsh winter weather comes harsh skin conditions – and with temperatures in the negatives, one can expect their skin to become temperamental, to say the least.
Dry, cracked and flaky skin are often the culprits. And while they might not sound intimidating to those lucky enough not to experience it, these common skin conditions no doubt wreak havoc on one’s body thanks to the changes in the elements.
“In general, with the humidity in the air dropping, you have an increase in transepidermal water loss so because of this people will see flaky skin and are sometimes more irritated and sensitive,” dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett of DLK Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser Clinic in Toronto says. “It’s also in conjunction with the cold, as well as the wind.”
According to the American Chemical Society, blood vessels only transport moisture to the middle layer of skin called the dermis. From there, the water migrates outward through the epidermis before it evaporates.
When this drying of the skin happens, Kellett says to do two things: switch the type of lotion you use, as well as the method of how you bathe.
“Switch from a gel-based moisturizer to a cream-based moisturizer to decrease that transepidermal water loss,” she advises. “Also sometimes people switch from showers to baths because baths are less drying, and you can also use oils in the bath.”
The job of these moisturizers, the American Chemical Society explains, is to trap or replenish the moisture in the epidermal layer.
There are three types of moisturizers, the society points out: occlusives, emollients and humectants.
Occlusives work by forming a barrier over the skin that water can’t penetrate. This stops evaporation and keeps your skin moisturized. Occlusives include petroleum jelly, which can cut transepidermal water loss by 98 per cent.
However, emollients are the most popular choices. These products are designed to penetrate the skin and make the skin feel softer and more flexible.
The third kind, humectants, help molecules attract and retain moisture in the epidermis. They bring younger cells to the surface and help to reduce flaky skin. They also promote the body’s natural production of ceramides, which are described as “waxy” molecules that reduce transepidermal water loss.
But one big thing people often forget to do in the winter, Kellett says, is protect their skin from the sun.
Just because the temperatures aren’t soaring about 20 C, however, it doesn’t mean your skin is safe from sun damage. So make sure to wear sunscreen all year round, even in the dead of winter, she warns.
“ confuse temperature with UV exposure,” which isn’t the case, Kellett says. “And we know that exposure to sun increases your chances of getting skin cancer and aging skin.”
Lastly, don’t forget to protect your lips. Do this by wearing lip balm rated at a minimum of SPF 20, Kellett adds.
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