You may have noticed your skin gets harder to manage in winter; it might feel drier, more sensitive and more prone to breakouts or flare-ups. In this article we take a look at what’s happening and how you can help your skin stay happy and hydrated in winter.
Winter brings a whole host of changes for skin, some good and others not so much! For those plagued by itchy heat and prickly skin in the summer, the cooler temperatures can bring relief, but for many the effect of colder, drier air can mean months of sore, dry skin.
What causes dry skin in winter?
Winter creates a perfect storm for increasing what’s called ‘transepidermal water loss’: simply put, the process by which the skin loses moisture to the air and gets dehydrated. The skin is meant to act as a barrier to the world, locking vital moisture in and keeping microbes and allergens out; when the barrier is damaged or doesn’t work so well, water can be lost and the skin suffers. Although the skin is not 100% waterproof, and moisture is lost gradually all the time, in winter the rate of evaporation increases.
Several different factors contribute to this, each of them increasing the rate of moisture lost from the skin; together they can make the winter miserable for anyone already prone to dry or sensitive skin.
- Colder air
- Lower humidity
- Central heating or electric fans
- Hot baths or showers
- Strong winds
What can you do to stop water loss?
Once you know how the skin can lose its moisture in winter, both outside in dry, cold, windy conditions, and inside if it’s hot and dry, you can start finding ways to protect it.
A good way to help a dehydrated skin barrier is to reinforce it! A layer of oil-based moisturiser over dry, damaged or sensitive skin can act as a second skin, like a tarpaulin over a leaky roof. The higher the oil content, the more effective the moisturiser will be against water loss, so pick ointments or balms over lotions. Apply your chosen balm (Balmonds Skin Salvation is perfect) regularly throughout the day.
Another good strategy for reducing water loss is to regulate the humidity inside. Dry air in your home or workplace leads to dry skin, as water is lost more quickly when the air itself is low humidity. Invest in a humidifier if you’re finding the atmosphere is really dry, or put bowls of water on windowsills, and let clothes air dry on radiators.
Hot, dry air in your home can also be a problem, which is why skin can get dehydrated as soon as you turn the heating on. Dial down the thermostat a notch or two; not so much that it’s freezing cold, but enough so that you notice the air is cool rather than hot.
Long, hot baths can be really problematic for impaired skin barriers! Although it sounds counterintuitive, prolonged contact with water, especially if it’s got soap or bubble bath in, can strip vital natural oils from the skin, leaving the outer layer of skin open to yet more moisture loss. In winter, avoid high-alkaline bar soap and switch to extra gentle ph-neutral washes instead. Keep baths short, and warm rather than hot. You can add a handful of oats in a sock, or a few drops of gentle unperfumed oil (like Balmonds Bath & Body Oil) to help protect against the drying effects of the water.
Other suggestions to keep your skin happy and hydrated:
- Drink enough water through the day!
- Exfoliate once a week to remove increased dead skin cells
- Take supplements of omega oils (or apply Skin Salvation to skin!)
- Wear loose, thin layers that can be easily added or taken away
- Avoid thick clothes that can overheat you
- Pick moisturisers that contain regenerative oils to feed the skin
- Avoid fragranced skincare which can further impair the skin barrier function
Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream
with shea butter and calendula
Bath & Body Oil
with lavender, hemp and olive
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.