The winter months are synonymous with dry skin (in my world, at least). The temperature drops and all the moisture seems to drain out of your skin, leaving you a flaky, vitamin D deprived creature.
It impacts your face and body, and although there are nourishing serums and moisturisers around that can help, it’s also worth understanding what’s causing your dry skin to help avoid it in the first place.
I chatted with Biologi’s Dermal Specialist Lucy Macdougald and Mischa Casey, Dr Roebuck’s Education and Product Specialist over email. Both of these skincare experts offered some insight into this annoying condition.
To start, why does our skin hate winter?
Macdougald shared that put plainly, cold weather “has a detrimental impact on our skin”.
Essentially, the weather conditions we see in winter case an “accelerated loosening of the lipid barrier [or moisture barrier] which can lead to dryness”.
Casey added that “come winter, your skin might be dehydrated and tight as the summer heat and humidity that contributes to oil production has been replaced by heaters and chilly winds, notorious for drying out the skin”.
There are loads of other factors that can impact your skin’s moisture levels, though.
Your showers are too hot
If you read our earlier piece on shower regularity, you’ll know that you’re probably hitting the showers too often. In addition to that, many of us are spending too long in the shower and are running the water temperature far too high.
Macdougald explained that “hot showers are not so amazing for the skin because it can disrupt the skin’s natural balance of moisture and therefore dry it out (especially if you’re having a couple of hot showers per day).”
“Too many hot showers can damage the keratin cells that are located in the epidermis, stripping the skin’s surface of its natural oils which are vital for the skin to regenerate. Excessive hot showers not only prevents the skin from locking in moisture (which can cause dryness and irritation) but can also inflame the skin too which can cause an array of issues from itching and redness.”
In extreme circumstances, and I speak from experience here (I broke out into a rash one time) skin experts may recommend you cut your shower down to a couple of minutes and that you use cold water.
You’re washing too often
Now, don’t get this advice mixed up. It’s absolutely paramount that we keep on top of hand hygiene by washing often and thoroughly. We are in a pandemic, after all.
However, washing your skin too rigorously in the shower, and using the wrong kinds of cleanser all over, can leave your bod crying out for moisture. It can also cause other skin issues.
“The skin is home to a complex ‘skin microbiome’ or ‘skin flora’ which refers to the microorganisms which reside on the skin, comprised of trillions of bacteria that are part of the immune system,” Macdougald shared.
“…The skin’s microbiome is our first line of defence against disease and infection. Its job is to protect the skin from bacteria, environmental pollutants and moisture loss by neutralising contaminations and holding cells tightly together (which make it harder for viruses to penetrate and moisture to escape). When we wash or cleanse too much, we essentially affect how effective our acid mantle [or skin microbiome] is, thus throwing it out of whack which can cause skin issues like excessive oil production which can lead to blemishes.”
Macdougald continued, saying that using a gentle body cleanser is a great way to ensure you’re not overly stripping your skin when washing. She suggested Biologi’s Bc Refresh Cleanser as an option, but other soap-free cleansers like QV are popular choices too.
In addition to this, Casey shared that you want to ensure you’re replenishing the lost water in your skin with hydrating products. When it comes to your face, she pointed to the True Blue Ultimate Hydrating Serum as a big winner for night-time routines.
“Think of it as a tall glass of water for your skin that will replenish your skin but will also work to strengthen the barrier, to help your skin keep all that water and moisture in,” she said.
Face mists, like the Bondi Hydrating Mist (which I’ve used and find quite refreshing), are another quick and easy way to hit the face with some hydration when you need it.
Fragranced products may be the culprit
Sure, it’s nice to smell good. But it’s worth keeping in mind that “many fragrances – even the natural ones such as essential oils – are known skin irritants that can cause dryness and skin sensitivity”.
Macdougald explained that “fragrance is one of the biggest irritants to the skin often causing allergic reactions, sensitivity and leading to more serious skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis”. So, while it may offer an enjoyable experience, it’s probably best to use fragranced products sparingly.
To that point, Casey suggested reconsidering products that tend to strip your skin during the winter months.
She recommended “avoiding ingredients such as alcohol-based astringents, synthetic fragrances or dyes, and denatured alcohols, as these are typically associated with drying out the skin”.
Heavy moisturisers aren’t always great for dry skin
I know, this one is a little confusing. But hear us out.
Macdougald shared that reaching for a moisturiser that’s particularly thick and heavy can cause your skin to become dependant on it.
“Heavy moisturisers and creams can essentially suffocate the skin, leading to more dryness. What’s more, some products can be incorrectly formulated and allow moisture to escape whilst also sucking it out of your skin,” she said.
Medical doctor and specialist dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams recently told Elle magazine something in the same vein, sharing that “Overloading the skin with too-rich, heavy and occlusive textures [which form like a film on the skin] can clog pores and slow down the skin’s vital, natural surface renewal.”
Instead, Macdougald suggests trying a skin serum like Biologi Bf Restore Face & Body Serum option (which I’ve personally used and loved). Another light and widely well-loved moisturiser option would be Aveeno’s Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion (I use this every day). If you’re after a skin oil, Go-To’s Exceptionoil is my skin saviour every winter.
Wake up to the importance of your bedding
An easy one to overlook, but a significant factor nonetheless. Your bedding can have a huge impact on your skin. You spend (ideally) eight hours a day lying against it, after all.
Macdougald shared that “If you’re using bedding in a material like linen or wool, this could be absorbing moisture from your skin and trapping it between the fibres. Ideally, materials like a breathable cotton or silk sheets are best for those who are concerned for their skin”.
“Also be mindful of the condition of your bedding – dirty sheets can rub against your skin whilst you sleep leading to irritation, so ensure you wash your sheets at least once a week!”