You don’t need a weather report to tell you how cold temperatures and gray skies can make your skin feel. While summer sun gets the most attention as a top culprit for preventable skin damage, winter is just as harsh. But because we spend more time indoors, it might not be as easy to spot, and prevent it. Cold, biting air and windy weather outside and dry, heated air inside leaves skin vulnerable to the formation of new lines and flare-ups in damaging conditions like eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. And even for skin with no issues, the seasonal lack of moisture can break down the skin barrier, leading to signs of aging. The good news is that taking extra care in the cold can limit the majority of seasonal damage. Here’s how . . .
Get religious about your skincare
Just using extra moisturizer in the winter isn’t going to cut it when low temperatures set in. Start by examining how – and when – you cleanse your skin. Switch to a cream-based cleanser if your skin is normal to dry and use any products that might have drying alcohol sparingly – like lotion or toners.
NDDA physician Dr. Corinne Erickson has a great tip for avoiding the itchy, dry skin that winter brings: manage moisture as soon as you step out of the shower. “If you’re taking a hot shower, be sure to moisturize as soon as you step out, or within five minutes of drying off.”
Recognize and manage skin conditions.
If you’ve had to deal with eczema, psoriasis or rosacea, you might already know that winter conditions can exacerbate the problems they cause. Psoriasis flare-ups are linked to lower levels of sunlight and vitamin D in the body, so the condition commonly gets worse in winter when both are in short supply. Meanwhile eczema flares in winter because it is exacerbated by dry skin, a common problem when humidity is low, and the air gets drier. And even mild cases of rosacea can get worse with exposure to very cold or harsh wind.
NDDA’s Dr. Melissa Costner says it’s important to recognize if your winter skin problems are linked to any of these conditions. “A lot of times people think they just have dry, itchy skin. It’s definitely something we see more of in the winter.” If you know you have an underlying skin condition, Dr. Costner recommends making a routine pre-winter appointment with a dermatologist to plan for managing your skin in the cold.
SPF and H2O are just as important in winter as they are in the summer.
It’s easy to get dehydrated in the winter – when long days in artificial indoor environments sap your skin of moisture. You may be drinking far less than your usual amount of water, but your skin still needs hydration to stay wrinkle free. If a cold glass of water doesn’t sound appealing, think hot tea.
And don’t slack on your daily SPF. Even when it’s overcast and cold out, there are still many times you’re exposed to damaging UV rays during the day. Always use a broad-spectrum SPF no lower than 25 to protect skin from UVA and UVB rays no matter the season.