The winter blahs can affect more than just your mood, they can also impact the appearance and texture of skin. Gone is that luminous glow brought on by the warm days of summer; skin seems to have dried out, leaving it looking and feeling lacklustre. Which is why it’s important to have a skin-saving action plan for when the barometer drops. ELLECanada.com checked in with four of Canada’s top dermatologists for their winter weather skin tips.
The importance of exfoliation
Just as our activity levels slow as the weather turns cold, so too does the rate our skin cells regenerate.
"It’s one of the many reasons our skin can look greyed in the winter," says Dr. Julia Carroll, a consulting dermatologist to Vaseline. "In order to renew our natural glow, we need to exfoliate our skin gently with a soft cloth or scrub. This will help rid our epidermis’ top layer of old, dead cells."
It’s also a good time to step up your spa routine. "Sloughing off dead skin cells at home is great," says Dr. Romy Saibil, co-owner of True MediSpa (truemedispa.com) in Toronto. "But sometimes you need a little bit more than just an at-home exfoliator to get the job done." She suggests going to see your dermatologist for regular facials. Winter is also a good time for microdermabrasion and chemical peels (the sun’s rays aren’t as strong, so the side effects will be less severe).
Heal skin through hydration
One of the reasons skin looks so lacklustre in the winter is because it naturally dries out as the barometer drops. Blame it on a number of factors, from furnaces (which remove all signs of humidity from a home’s air) to our natural inclination to drink less water (we’re less thirsty because we sweat less). So it’s important to prevent further epidermal dehydration and to moisturize with thick body creams.
It comes down to changing how you bathe and shower, says Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, Medical Director of the Bay Dermatology Centre (baydermatologycentre.com) in Toronto. "Spend no more than 10 to 15 minutes bathing and turn the temperature down." Skotnicki also recommends using soaps made for sensitive skin (they contain easy-on-the epidermis ingredients and are less apt to dry it out).
"Pat the skin dry after cleaning," adds Skotnicki. "And moisturize daily with a lipid/ceramide body cream." Ceramides are molecules that naturally appear in the skin and prevent dehydration.
“Winter itch is a common problem in Canada. It only increases as we age because of how rapidly our skin loses ceramides and moisture,” says Skotnicki. The result? Dried out, itchy, cracking skin. Which is why she recommends ditching products packed with chemically-created fragrances – they’ll only irritate and dry skin out further.
“Avoid fragranced bath or shower gels,” Skotnicki adds. “And switch your detergent to one that’s fragrance-free, like Tide Free or Ivory Snow. Never use fabric softener; use anti-static balls instead.”
It’s also important to see a dermatologist if the level of skin irritation you’re experiencing becomes painful (if not treated, cracked and dried out skin can become infected).
Protect your skin from the elements
"Some people forget the sun is still out in the winter," says Dr. Francine Gerstein, co-owner of True MediSpa in Toronto. "It may not feel as warm as the summer sun, but it can still do damage."
That’s especially true if you spend a lot of time swooshing down the slopes – the sun’s reflection off the snow can cause sunburn.
"Regardless of what you’re doing, it’s absolutely essential to apply a sunscreen with a minimum SPF 15 before leaving your house in the morning. It’s a small step everyone can take to save their skin during cooler months."
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