Cold weather is no friend to those with dry skin, problem skin conditions such as eczema, or those prone to allergy, whose skin may be particularly sensitive to environmental factors. Exposing the skin to fluctuating temperatures – from bitter cold outside, to warm centrally heated homes inside – can cause the fine veins in your skin to contract and expand quickly, damaging both them, and your skin’s appearance. Add the drying effect of the battering wind, and your complexion will be longing for the return of summer and in prompt need of some TLC.
The British Skin Foundation have issued some advice this season, which we think is worth sharing, as even just one or two pieces of advice could make the difference to you. Here are consultant dermatologist Dr Bav Shergill’s top tips – supplemented with our own suggestions.
Avoid harsh cleansers
Shergill advises you avoid any soaps or gels which contain alcohol – usually denoted as ‘alcohol denat’ (i.e. denatured alcohol) or ‘ethanol’ on ingredients labels. The terms ‘benzyl alcohol’, ‘cetearyl alcohol’ and others do not represent true alcohol, incidentally. Gels may be better than soaps, as soaps are alkaline, work against the acidic skin and can strip too much natural oil from it. Gentle, fragrance free products may suit you. Steer clear of harsh scrubs (salt, sugar, nut shells), and only exfoliate, if you really need to, with products that use gentle exfoliating agents, such as oats. Double check for any MI in the formulation.
No hot baths or showers
Tempting, but these can again strip oils, says Shergill. Warm water is far better for the skin than hot, and will avoid that sharp change of temperature that your skin dislikes. Following up with some gentle, fragrance free body oil is the perfect way to round-off a warm bath, and one which will seal in moisture – or else add a few drops of oil to the bath itself. Pure oils, which contain no water, should be safely free from MI.
Moisturise with the right emollient
This, Shergill argues, is important to prevent cracking and infection. Moisturise regularly. It’s best done, actually, when skin is slightly damp, after a shower or bath. Pat skin dry rather than rub vigorously. The thicker or oilier the moisturiser, the better, on the whole. Some ‘wet’ lotions may not be moisturising enough for winter skin.
Protect skin with the right clothing
Warm clothes are needed, plus accessories – gloves, scarf and hat – but remember that wool and other ‘itchy’ materials can irritate some delicate skins. Make sure you’re wrapped up to keep out cold wind and rain. Use a lip salve too.
Moderate internal heating
For similar reasons, don’t turn up the central heating to max – it’ll dry your skin and make you uncomfortable. Drier air means drier skin. Keep it at an average setting, and consider a humidifier in the room – or even just a glass of water set near a radiator to keep some moisture in the air.
For more information on healthy skin, see the British Skin Foundation website.