Winter is approaching but that doesn't have to mean compromised skin, including dryness, dullness, tightness and irritation. With a basic knowledge of how our skin works and using the correct products, you can help your skin look and feel healthy this winter.
Protect the barrier
Our skin barrier is similar in concept to a brick wall: The bricks are the skin cells and the mortar is a combination of cholesterol, free fatty acids and ceramides that hold our skin cells together. It’s important that our “mortar” remain healthy so we don’t have transepidermal water loss — or TEWL — which can bring about dehydration and allow in irritants that would have otherwise been stopped by a healthy barrier.
The acid mantle is the first line of defense for our skin barrier. It keeps out microbes and other foreign substances and helps maintain the skin’s moisture and suppleness. Skin is naturally acidic — between 4.5 and 5.5 on the pH scale. In order to keep the integrity of our acid mantle, you should use pH-balanced cleansers. Soap (especially bar soap) is very alkaline and will compound the problems of dry, irritated skin.
Prioritize calming and soothing skin care
“Calm, soothe and protect” should be your skin care mantra when dealing with compromised skin. This is even more important when cold temperatures, wind and dry inside air all do their best to make your skin its worst.
Ingredients that help repair and retain the integrity of the skin barrier are ceramides, hyaluronic acid and squalane. Remember, ceramides are a part of your “mortar” that help make our barrier strong. Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water to help with hydration levels and plumping up the skin (yes, please!). Squalane is an antioxidant, usually sourced from olives, that also helps boost hydration.
While adding in beneficial ingredients, be careful to avoid ones that can inflame and irritate compromised skin, like alcohols (too harsh and drying), fragrance/parfum (high irritant/allergen) and actives like vitamins A and C, glycolic and salicylic acids and high concentrations of essential oils (all are too strong and irritating on dry, compromised skin).
Hydrating mists, soothing serums and nourishing moisturizers all work together to create a happy, healthy and protected skin barrier. Hydrating mists can be used throughout the day whenever you feel the need for a hydration boost — even over makeup.
Put on the sunscreen
Sunscreen — wait, in winter? Yes! UVA rays that cause DNA damage are still active and a definite concern in the colder months. It’s also important to note that many anti-cancer medications, including chemotherapy drugs, are phototoxic — meaning even a little bit of sun exposure can cause very uncomfortable skin reactions. When looking for a sunscreen, stick to the mineral/physical sunscreens of at least SPF 30. Higher SPFs don’t necessarily offer more protection.
Pamper the body
The face gets a lot of attention as it’s what we present to the world, but our skin is the largest organ, and we need to pamper all of it. Using pH balanced soaps for the whole body is a great first step. Moisturizing right after getting out of the shower or bath, while the skin is still damp, helps seal in more moisture. If your skin is very dry, then moisturizing a couple of times a day can help. At night, lather your hands and feet in rich lotion or cream, then sleep in clean cotton gloves and socks as another measure to seal that moisture in.
Winter doesn’t have to mean compromised skin. With a little knowledge and care, you can keep your skin healthy.