The cold weather has arrived, and our skin has begun to feel the effects. Due to the cold temperatures and low humidity levels, we are left with dry, irritated skin. But the problem is more than cosmetic; there are dangerous health risks that are associated with dry skin. As the skin dries it becomes more susceptible to cracking, which in turn creates an entryway for germs into the body. To avoid exposure to infections and other diseases, it is important to take care of your skin throughout these winter months. Here are some tips to help your skin feel healthier and better protected.
- Beware of what you wear– Wool is a common, warm fabric worn in winter. If you are suffering from dry skin, it’s best to avoid this itchy fabric, which can irritate the skin. Your best option is to wear breathable fabrics such as cotton. According to Harvard Health Publications, the detergents you use on your clothing can also affect your skin. Avoid using fabric softeners, and choose a detergent that is labeled fragrance-free.
- Protect your hands–Wear gloves when outdoors to avoid exposure to the cold temperatures. Also wear gloves while cleaning, especially when washing dishes. The more you wet your hands, the more likely it is that they will dry out and crack. Those who need to wash their hands frequently due to their occupation, such as healthcare and food service workers, are particularly prone to dry skin. According to the Center for Disease Control, healthcare workers clean their hands as many as 100 times per 12-hour shift. This, in addition to the harsh winter weather, can leave hands very damaged.
- Eliminate hot showers– Everyone enjoys taking hot showers especially in the winter months, however, hot water can dry out the skin. Harvard Health suggests reducing your shower time, and using lukewarm water. Altering your showering habits will prevent your skin from being stripped of its natural oils.
- Moisturize– Apply a moisturizer immediately after showering. This is most beneficial for your skin, because it locks in the dampness. Use an oil-based moisturizer as opposed to a cream or lotion which is mostly made up of water and wax, as they are not as effective in repairing dry skin. The oil-based moisturizers help to reduce water loss by locking in your skin’s natural moisture. Don’t forget about your lips, as they can easily become cracked and chapped without the protection of a moisturizing lip balm.
- Hydrate– If your body is dehydrated, the outer layer of skin known as the epidermis will dry out. Increase your water intake by eating foods that are high in water content. Cucumbers, celery, broccoli, strawberries and grapefruit all contain water content above 90%. To increase your water intake during the winter months, try warming a cup of water and adding lemon.
- You are what you eat – Your diet plays an important role in keeping your skin healthy. Foods with Omega 3-fatty acids, such as salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds, can help keep your skin full of moisture. According to a study on the link between nutrition and skin aging, Vitamin C is another beneficial nutrient which aids in the production of collagen in the body, and gives our skin the elasticity it needs. Consume fresh fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits, broccoli, and collard greens.
Here are a few non-traditional remedies found in your home that can help to protect your skin during the winter months.
- Coconut oil – Applying this oil directly to your skin will help exfoliate the outer layer of skin cells.
- Honey– One of the best natural moisturizers, honey, helps your skin lock in moisture. Apply to your skin and leave on for 10 minutes before you shower.
- Oatmeal– Use oatmeal in a bath, or applied to your skin as a face mask. Oatmeal creates a protective barrier on your skin, helping to prevent water loss.
“People with eczema and other chronic skin conditions will also notice a flare during this season. It is especially important that they are compliant with their regimens,” said Dr. Christine Fruth, DO an internist with Mather Primary Care. Be prepared, and follow these tips to ensure your skin remains healthy and nourished in the coming months.