How to manage dry skin in winter

By Melanie Gill, QCPP Pharmacy Practice Officer

These past few weeks we have certainly noticed a change in the weather, as much as I’m sad to say it; winter is here! While it does come with the benefits of hot chocolates, soups and lazy days by the fire, the cold and dry weather really takes a toll on your skin.

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It is soft, to allow movement, but still tough enough to resist breaking or tearing. It varies in texture and thickness from one part of the body to the next. For instance, the skin on our lips and eyelids is very thin and delicate, while skin on the soles of our feet is thicker and harder.

Skin is one of our most versatile organs. Some of the different functions of skin include:

  • A waterproof wrapping for our entire body
  • The first line of defence against bacteria and other organisms
  • A cooling system via sweat
  • A sense organ that gives us information about pain, pleasure, temperature and pressure

So you can understand that when there’s a change in the temperature, it can cause a lot of stress to your skin, causing it to dry out.

Dry skin is caused by a lack of water both inside and outside skin cells. There are a variety of products you can purchase to combat dry skin, however, the vast majority of them are oil-based. Oil- based moisturisers are generally a lot heavier, so they can be really nourishing for really dry skin. As most skin types produce sufficient amounts of oil themselves, a non-oily, water-retaining product can really help. Two common ingredients which fit this description are glycerin & sodium hyaluronate.

Both of these ingredients hold water in the skin without causing an oily sheen or increased susceptibility to acne. A water based moisturizer may be more beneficial in the long term, as it may feel lighter on your skin and is less likely to clog pores.

As well as using a daily moisturiser, it’s important to note that the major cause of skin dehydration is irritation, which compromises the skin’s protective barrier of oils and lipids, and allows moisture to escape. Common sources of irritants include:

  • Harsh soaps or unfriendly chemicals
  • Eczema, asthma, allergies and other genetic causes
  • Environment – wind, snow, dirt, sun exposure, air-conditioning
  • Inferior cosmetic products

Don’t forget: Moisturisers work by creating a barrier over the skin after cleansing or exfoliating. Many people are reluctant to apply an oily moisturiser immediately after using a product to remove oil. So if oily skin is a concern, it is essential that you use skin products which are not oil-based, but rather employ ingredients such as glycerin or sodium hyaluronate to retain moisture. Importantly, do not hesitate to exfoliate! Cleaning the skin before moisturising removes dirt and debris, and allows the moisturiser to penetrate deep into the skin layers.

Is your skin effected by the cooler weather? Maybe it’s time to check your bathroom cabinet to make sure you are using the right product for your skin, to keep it soft and supple this winter!