If you are one of the millions of people suffering from the dry skin dilemma, then you are not alone. Dry skin is a common, yet highly bothersome malady that can occur as a result of many different internal or external causes and often presents in a variety of forms where the common element is of course, dry skin. The commonest cause of dry skin is temperature extremes, more specifically harsh wintry climates with low humidity levels. Perhaps that is why it is popularly known as ‘winter’s itch’. As I’ve mentioned in my previous articles, as we age, our skin tends to become dry (an alteration or reduction of natural oils) and sensitive, add a blast of winter air to the equation and we are left with severely dry and cracked skin that is very difficult to manage- a term known as the 7th age itch. It might or might not be accompanied by a non-itchy or itchy rash that might progress into a painful dry fissuring eczema if not properly managed.
As winter is fast approaching, I decided to focus on simple at-home protocols for managing dry skin. These are tried and tested marvelous tips that have helped my patients and I truly hope that they will help you maintain supple and healthy skin as you get ready to brave the winter!
Winterize Your Skin- Top Tips:
- Exfoliate the dead superficial skin cells (cause of flakiness) that can make your skin look dull and aged. Chemical, along with physical (abrasives like clay, ground nuts or seeds, finely ground oats and other grains and sugar) exfoliation can do wonders to enhance skin luminosity and reduce flakiness. Try visiting a Medi-Spa as a part of your skin care ritual and ask about Microdermabrasion, LED, Ultrasonic and other novel Light based treatments along with professional peels that will help you maintain soft skin throughout the chilly months and combat excessive dryness. At-home measures can include weekly exfoliation of your choice (please refer to my previous article) followed by applications of ointments and moisturizers that are not loaded with toxins.
- After exfoliation, try applying serums rich in white tea extracts, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, fruits acids, ceramides, omega fatty acids that will help maintain skin hydration, strengthen the epidermal barrier and deliver anti-oxidants and essential amino acids.
- I have always stressed upon the importance of adequate water intake for managing skin health holistically. However, during the winter months when the skin tends to become excessively dry (often transforming into a painful dry eczema) drinking water might not be enough to maintain skin hydration. External moisturization will have to be implemented. This measure will lock-in skin moisture and precious natural skin lipids (sebum) and form a thin protective film that will prevent the epidermal barrier from drying out. A great way to keep your skin supple during the cold months is to invest in a humidifier which is a fantastic dry skin preventative measure, especially with the heat running indoors; balanced moisture levels produced by the humidifier will balance the negative effects of dry heat.
- Keep your favorite moisturizer by your bedside so that you don’t forget to apply it. There is no one magic moisturizer. Use one that works for you. You know your skin best. Nut butters are a great non-toxic option, and if possible, stick with products that have minimal ingredients. Vaseline, glycerin, goat’s milk based creams, Shea butter, Coconut oil, Almond oil- all work wonderfully. Just remember to use your preferred ointments, emollients or creams regularly and try not to skip an application. Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize.
- For your body, hair and nails: Exfoliate, take short showers (not more 10 minutes), avoid hot baths, and apply an emollient or an oil based moisturizer just before towel drying your body. Please try and avoid soaps at all costs. They will strip your skin of natural oils and irritate your skin further. Soap substitutes are a highly recommended option. Try and limit over washing your hair and apply oils to keep them supple. Apply Vit.E oil to your nails and cuticles and wear gloves when you step out to protect your hands and nails from the elements. Once again, limit washing your hands, as this can worsen dryness.
- Eat a nutty nutrient rich diet and avoid beverages that will dehydrate your body like excessive caffeine, alcohol, energy drinks and soft drinks. There is a direct link between dry skin and diet as demonstrated by various scientific studies and clinical research.
- Keeps hands and feet soft and clean by practicing home manicures and pedicures. Winter time means cracked heels- so take care of your feet. Make sure to apply a moisturizer or emollient after a manicure or pedicure and wear soft clean gloves and socks.
- Lips: A secret to soft kissable lips in winter time is the application of a few drops of Argan oil sealed with a dab of glycerin.
- Don’t sit close to radiators, fireplaces or heaters and wear appropriate winter undergarments and clothing. Just be sure to cover your skin and stay bundled up. The first layer of winter clothing can actually help lessen dry skin, believe it or not. Try wearing undergarments (preferably cotton) that are clean and dry and avoid direct contact with wool, since wool is a known irritant and can aggravate dryness. The part of the garment that is in direct contact with your skin should be one that does not cause irritation. Please avoid washing your clothes with harsh bleaches or detergents as this might cause an irritant dermatitis. Many ecofriendly laundry detergents are now available, so whenever possible, opt for that.
- Acne tends to become worse during the winter time as the skin is trying to over compensate by producing excess oils that will prevent moisture loss. An acne facial or light based treatment like IPL or Blue Light can be used as an additional way to take care of winter-acne. Fruit acid washes, gentle exfoliation, application of non-comedogenic moisturizers and a healthy anti-inflammatory diet will help with your acne on a more holistic level. Please do not be aggressive with exfoliation (however tempting), as this can result in angry raw skin and make your acne worse. To make sure your skin stays clean and clear, do remove all traces of make-up before you retire. Make-up along with excess oiliness might make winter acne worse.
Please see your dermatologist if your dry skin condition worsens or becomes unmanageable at home. Having said that, proper nutrition, sufficient moisturization and these simple tips will ensure softer happier skin without having to resort to harsh treatments.
Key point to take away from this article: Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize…and the winter’s itch will bother you no more.