We sometimes don’t pay attention to the subtle changes in our skin during the seasons, in particular the colder winter months.
During winter the skin looses moisture due to several factors, one being the cold weather; when the humidity drops there is less moisture in the air another is the need to have central heating to keep us nice and ‘toasty’, our skin literally dries out and what’s called the skins natural barrier function erodes.
There is only a slight variance with the skin's oil flow from summer to winter. The skin may feel fractionally drier since our skin secrets oil to protect us from becoming dehydrated as well as protecting us against the environment, it is common to experience both skin taughtness and flakiness form dehydration hence dehydration seems to be the number one culprit during winter. Dehydration can make the skin feel and look much like a piece of parchment, rough on the surface and lot's of fine feather lines and a crispy dry sensation.
The surface of the skin resembles a brick wall, with the skin cells being the bricks and the cement keeping the bricks firmly together the Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF). The NMF is made of all kinds of goodies such as lipids (fats) to keep the skin soft and supple along with moisturising sugars, water and minerals.
The NMF is not only eroded (dried out) by the weather and central heating, but using too hot water, using incorrect products on the skin such as S.D alcohol (found in skin toners/tonics) or products containing Sodium Laurel Sulphate (normally cleansers for oily skins) also dry it out. In addition, a note to all those exfoliation ‘junkies’ out there, over-zealous exfoliation can seriously have a negative effect on your ‘facial landscape’.
When the NMF is degraded the skin has what we call an ‘impaired barrier function’, meaning there are miniature ‘gaps’ in the skin wall where there is no NMF. Where there are gaps it leads to two things: 1) ‘things can get out’, such as moisture that is being lost from the lower levels of the skin leading to dehydration and dryness and 2) ‘things can get in’, such as substances that can irritate the skin leading to increased skin sensitivity and irritability.
In winter since it’s not so hot, we tend to drink less water but rather warm ourselves up by drinking lot's more tea and coffee which we know to have a diuretic action on the body.
In winter the lips can also become dry, cracked and flaky. The best solution is to use a gentle Microfoliant, this has a base of rice bran powder and will delicately soften and smooth the lips, use once a week in conjunction with a protective lip balm or lipstick that has high emoliencey and rich of essential fatty acids, oils such as avocado and wheat germ and also ingredients such as Shea Butter.
In Chinese face reading it is believed that the lips become dry due to gastric stress, which makes sense as in winter we tend to change our diet to much richer heavier foods that put stress on our digestive systems.
A very positive change for winter skin is for those who may of suffered increased breakouts during the summer months due in part to the heat and humidity (these two elements combined stimulate a more active oil flow) so when the temperature and humidity drops the skin generally experiences less breakouts.
To combat dry skin think PROTECTION, HYDRATION AND MOISTURISATION. Choose a moisturiser with lots of hydrating and soothing ingredients and one that acts as a protectant (may contain organic silicones that form a protective barrier over the skin), there are many ranges now that have Environmental Control products designed specifically for harsh/extreme weather conditions. You may want to choose a moisturiser with a slightly higher oil content but note 'only slightly'. If you feel your skin is more flaky, dry and dehydrated. There are some great foundations that contain added moisturisation without being heavy or oily on the skin again look for ones that contain organic silicones.
My skin care recommandations are:
A great guide to choosing your winter products is to look for ones that state they are formulated specifically to control the effects of the environment. These usually contain organic silicones, though expensive to formulate with they have a dynamic effect on protecting the skin and even repair the skins impaired barrier function, the barrier function serves the same purpose in the skin as cement does in a brick wall, it keeps the skins surface tight and compact. Environmental products can also contain powerful anti inflammatories which will reduces redness and irritation such as two ingredients from the fumitory plant; fumitory extract and fumeric acid also look out for Canadian Willow Herb great for stopping the itching one can feel during winter. There are fantastic boosters on the market that help reduce the skins sensitivity and irritation often experienced during the winter months they can sooth the skin and strengthen the skins capillaries since they contain 70% red raspberry extract. Another great product that reduces inflammation, soothes a dry flaky skin is a super concentrated multi vitamin mask containing panthenol (B5) this is a great natural healing mask for the skin.
Your must haves for winter make are:
1) Cleanser- Choose an ultra calming type cleanser one that is formulated to protect your skin against the winter environment. These cleansers can be washed off or if the skin is so sensitive even to water you can tissue them off without fear of leaving a residue behind. They often contain ingredients such as Safflower oil, Hops, Rosemary, Horsetail and pinecone. Anti inflammatory extracts - Cucumber, Echinacea, Wheat Germ Extract, Marshmallow, Comfrey, Raspberry, Grape Extract, Kiwi, Panthenol.
2) Toner: A hydrating spritz is a must, which will keep you skin evenly hydrated stopping those unpleasant dry flaky patches one can get (which are very obvious when you apply your foundation and it clogs into dark patches), help against flakiness and an added bonus to these type of toners is you can use them throughout the day to boost your skins moisture levels as they can be spritzed over make up.
3) Hydrating Booster: A key player for winter skin, often these super hydrators contain Hyaluronic acid a wonder ingredient that has the ability to hold a 1000 time its own weight in moisture, now that will keep those fine dehydration lines and flakiness away!
4) Moisturiser: The skin needs nourishment an ideal way to provide this is to apply a good moisturiser. It is not necessary to use a ‘heavy weight’ moisturiser as there are now such fantastic ingredients and formulations available that can be really effective without being oily or heavy on the skin. Look for moisturisers that contain a complex of vitamins A,C,E Panthenol (B5), essential fatty acids such found in many vegetable oils i.e. evening primrose oil borage seed oil, Shea butter, jojoba oil coconut oil, a great ingredient to combat winter skin is betaglucan .
The new high tech products that have an organic silicone base. These 'velvety' moisturisers melt on contact with the skin then form an invisible barrier to prevent (trans-epidermal) water loss and allergen invasion (irritants) soothe skin won't dry out and feels so incredibly smooth. In addition they are formulated with super charged skin protectors which protect against dehydration and environmental assault. These are all fabulous ingredients that really encourage the skin to keep healthy.
5) Exfoliation: Exfoliation is important throughout the year but especially in winter to prevent the skin from feeling dry, rough and flaky. The key is not to have an aggressive exfoliant that causes any skin sensitivity or irritation. With cutting edge technology the new wave of exfoliants have dynamic skin cell turnover rates (how one measures the rate of exfoliation) without the sensitising effects of many exfoliants in the past.
Try an exfoliating booster light lotion that is easily applied under the moisturiser and works gently throughout the day. For a very mild and gentle skin 'polish' use the new microfoliants (see note below), blended with rice bran and rice extract it leaves the skin super smooth. There are also slightly stronger forms of exfoliations such as a Hydroxy Acid Mask Exfoliant which you can use once or twice a week. Use scrubs with caution especially in winter if you suffer from any skin sensitivity.
Microfoliant: You don't want to over exfoliate or irate the skin especially in winter but you do need to keep is soft, smooth and polished so include one of the new forms of micro foliation (a mini exfoliation process that can be done daily) these normally contain a rice-based powder, skin brighteners and anti inflammatories.
6) Multi Vitamin Masque- A multi complex of vitamins for the skin will act like a 'power pack' for a stressed, environmentally ravaged skin. I like to think of this type of mask like an “ambulance” in a tube since they often contain Beta Glucan (from oats) and 5% panthenol (B5).
Apart from moisturisers using hydrating or soothing boosters under your moisturiser will give you superb results in combating the effect of winter on your skin and for a little more TLC try using a hydrating or moisturising mask once or twice a week.
Vitally important but sometimes over looked is the necessity to apply a daily sunscreen. We are fortunate in most places in Australia that our winters are very mild, often warm and even hot! If you can burn even slightly in this type of sun then you need to protect the skin against the UVB rays (the burning rays of the sun), that been said we often forget how important it is to protect ourselves against UVA rays the ageing rays of the sun which are still very 'active' all year round. So don't give up the sunscreen because you think it's winter time, we still need to apply and re apply our daily sun block as none of use enjoy experiencing the results of premature ageing! Consider your sun block as an all year rounder, you need to wear a sun block 360 days a year.
The skin needs good nutrients all year round and in winter we tend to overcook many of our foods so they can lose their goodness, try to still have your fresh vegetable or fruit juices, steam your vegies lightly so they are still crisp and try to eat a piece of fresh fruit at least once a day. In addition increase your intake of oily fish such as salmon or oily nuts as they contain good quantities of EFA’s which help keep your skin supple and well moisturised.
The professional touch:
If you visit a well trained therapist who knows skin they will automatically adapt their treatment to your needs for each and every season! A great skin reviver for face and body is exfoliation, getting rid of those dry dull skin cells makes such a difference, your skin will feel energised as well as polished. Try treatments with essential oils they revitalise and have an uplifting effect on the senses. If you have traumatised winter skin visit a skin care therapist for a treatment using Clinical Colloidal Oatmeal, it's an instant calmative and rescue therapy for the skin!
Since our bodies not just our faces are exposed to the elements we can't neglect it either. Exfoliation for the body is just as important as it is for the face; you need to gently rub away the dry skin with possibly a body salt glow or body scrub at least twice a week. Then why not try immersing yourself in a warm bath infused with therapeutic aromatherapy body oil's (stress relief oil blend), letting the winter aches melt away and turn a normal bath into a Spa experience. Follow by applying lashings of your favorite ultra rich body cream leaving your skin feeling soft smooth and supple and your body feeling relaxed and distressed.
Last but not least let's not forget our hands, since they are a dead giveaway not only to our ageing process but how much due care we place on looking after our skin. Apply a hand cream that is multi functional. (and non sticky!) It needs to have vitamins and anti oxidants to protect the hands from environmental ageing and assault and built in moisturisers to hydrate the skin and protect the nails.
By Emma Hobson, Education Manager for The International Dermal Institute