Our skin is a precious organ that not only reflects beauty, but also provides important protection for our bodies. It forms a barrier between you and the environment that will prevent harsh chemicals and bacteria from entering the body. Therefore, it is important that in all seasons you protect this wonderful asset, your skin. While you want to look your best at all times, minimizing dry and flaky skin, you also want to keep the skin supple so that it remains an intact barrier and does not develop excessive cracks or sores where bacterial can gain access to your body. Proper skin care is most important during the winter when cold temperatures, dry air and harsh winds all act to dry out the skin which can lead to irritations and inflammations.
The skin is composed of two major layers, the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis, the outer layer of the skin, is made up of several layers of cells. The cells in the deepest part of the epidermis divide and replenish the upper layers. The very outermost layer of the epidermis is made up of the protein, keratin, and oils secreted to the surface of the skin. This layer of keratin and oils makes your skin a waterproof barrier to the outside environment and help prevent bacterial from getting into your body. Below are six tips to help you minimize the effects of winter weather on your skin.
1. Avoid taking hot baths or soaking too long in the tub. The hot temperature of the water breaks down the oils that protect the keratinized outer layer of the skin. As this protective layer is eroded, the skin may become dry and develop small cracks, providing a way for bacteria to enter your body.
2. Use moisturizers daily to keep the skin soft and supple. This will prevent cracks and irritations from occurring. Even slight irritation to the surface of the skin can cause the cells in the lower layer of the epidermis to divide more rapidly, resulting in increased shedding of cells from the surface of your skin. You will recognize this as dry, flaky skin and even dandruff. Frequent use of moisturizers such as Eucerin or Curel, or even petroleum jelly, can help prevent dry, cracked skin from occurring. Moisturizers such as Glytone contain exfoliating agents can help to remove flaking cells from the surface of the skin.
3. Use a moisturizer with a sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater. Although the sun’s rays are weaker during the winter, there are still enough UV rays in the sunlight to damage your skin. Skin care treatments can vary with the geographical region in which you live. If you live in a northern climate where snow is on the ground much of the winter, the UV rays are reflected off of the snow and can affect your skin. Make sure you apply sunscreen to the most exposed areas of your body, your face, neck, and ears. Exposure to UV rays of the sun is known to be a cause of skin cancers which you want to avoid at all costs.
4. Wear gloves to protect your hands from cold temperatures and drying. If you need wool gloves to keep out the cold, consider wearing a cotton pair of gloves as a liner for them. “Breathable fabrics” such as cotton or silk absorb surface moisture and prevent a a warm, moist environment in which bacteria can grow from occurring. To avoid developing cold weather related itches and rashes, the same concept applies to the rest of your body. Chose under garments of cotton or silk.
5. Place one or more humidifiers in your home to counteract the dry indoor air produced by heating units. It is said that as soon as you turn on the heat in your home, the dry indoor air will set up conditions for dry, itchy, flaky, skin.
6. Winter weather can cause certain skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, eczema, and others to worsen. If you find this occurring, seek help from a physician or other qualified medical personnel for advice in how to treat your skin condition. Sometimes it is wise to seek help when winter is just beginning, to prevent dry,itchy winter skin from developing.
Be kind to your skin. It protects you. During the winter in particular, and all seasons in general, you need to protect it.