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What to do about dry skin in winter

dry skin, water, swimming, moisture, winter

Especially during the colder months of the year our skin tends to reflect the lower humidity both indoor and outdoors. Fortunately, there are many simple and inexpensive things you can do to relieve winter dry skin.

skin epidermis anatomy

The skin has three layers, each with a distinct role.

  • Lowest or innermost layer: consists of subcutaneous fat, which provides insulation, energy storage, and shock absorption.
  • Dermis: contains blood vessels, nerves, sweat and oil glands, and hair follicles.
  • Epidermis: the skin's main protective barrier and the level where drying occurs. It consists of stacked layers of cells that are constantly in transition, as younger, living cells rise from the lower part of the epidermis and eventually die and fall off after reaching the surface. This continuous cycle completely renews the skin about once a month.


Keeping moisture in the skin

Think of the epidermal skin cells as an arrangement of roof shingles held together by a lipid-rich "glue" that keeps the skin cells flat, smooth, and in place.

Water loss accelerates when the glue is loosened by sun damage, over-cleansing, scrubbing, or underlying medical conditions — or by winter's low humidity and the drying effects of indoor heat. The result is roughness, flaking, itching, cracking, and sometimes a burning sensation.

Skin moisturizers, which rehydrate the epidermis and seal in the moisture, are the first step in combating dry skin. They contain three common main types of ingredients.

  • Humectants, which help attract moisture (include ceramides, glycerin, sorbitol, hyaluronic acid, and lecithin)
  • Another set of ingredients — for example, petrolatum (petroleum jelly), silicone, lanolin, and mineral oil — help seal that moisture within the skin.
  • Emollients, such as linoleic, linolenic, and lauric acids, which smooth skin by filling in the spaces between skin cells.

Skin aging and dryness

Dry skin becomes much more common with age; at least 75% of people over age 64 have dry skin. Often it's the cumulative effect of sun exposure: sun damage results in thinner skin that doesn't retain moisture. The production of natural oils in the skin also slows with age; in women, this may be partly a result of the postmenopausal drop in hormones that stimulate oil and sweat glands. Substances in the dermis (below the epidermis) that attract and bind water molecules also decrease with age.

What you can do 

Change Up Your Diet
With a direct connection between the gut and skin health, increasing your daily intake of fats may help with dry skin. We recommend eating a diet rich in walnuts, olive oil, and avocados (but not to sub them for a proper skin-care routine). While that extra glass of full-bodied red wine may seem like a good idea, we advise to not overdo it with alcohol, caffeine, and coffee, as they are diuretics that will cause dehydration.

Prep Your Home
The drier the air, the drier the skin. To maximize the amount of water in the air, it is recommended to place a humidifier in the room where you spend the most time, which, in many cases, is the bedroom. In addition, be sure the heat is kept on low or at a moderate temperature to avoid extra dryness in the air.

Switch to a Heavy Face Cream
Perhaps one of the most important and commonly overlooked steps in the dry skin game is changing to a seriously hydrating moisturizer. Look for creams, rather than lotions, that are made with ceramides and hyaluronic acid. Ceramides aid in the prevention of the skin’s barrier, which is “easily broken down during the winter.”

Here are some more ways to combat dry skin that are effective if practiced consistently:

  • Limit yourself to one 5- to 10-minute bath or shower daily. If you bathe more than that, you may strip away much of the skin's oily layer and cause it to lose moisture.
  • Use lukewarm water rather than hot water, which can wash away natural oils.
  • Minimize your use of soaps
  • Steer clear of deodorant soaps, perfumed soaps, and alcohol products
  • To reduce the risk of trauma to the skin, avoid bath sponges, scrub brushes, and washcloths. If you don't want to give them up altogether, be sure to use a light touch. For the same reason, pat or blot (don't rub) the skin when toweling dry.
  • Apply moisturizer immediately after bathing or after washing your hands. This helps plug the spaces between your skin cells and seal in moisture while your skin is still damp.
  • Use sunscreen in the winter as well as the summer to prevent photoaging
  • Use fragrance-free laundry detergents and avoid fabric softeners.
  • drink enough water!






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