I love visiting my friends and family on the east coast but I am also reminded how spoiled we are living in southern California. I spent a little under 2 weeks and my skin already has noticeable signs of the cold, dry air. Not only is it overall dryer than usual but I also noticed some dry flaky patches that were not there 2 weeks ago…thus I dedicate this post to my east coast and mid-western friends in the midst of the winter season. While I cannot send you warmth, I figured the least I could do is give you some tips on how to prevent and combat dry winter skin.
What makes winter weather so harsh on your skin? Winter weather brings with it not only cool dry air, but also the need for the use of indoor heating and changes in eating and exercise. Due to these factors, it is common to have dryness, skin dehydration, irritation and even acne.
What is dry skin?
Dry skin, also known as xerosis or xeroderma, is due to water loss from the Epidermis or outer layer of skin. Dry skin is often temporary or seasonal — you might get it only in winter, for example — or you might need to treat it long term. Signs and symptoms of dry skin might vary based on your age, health status, skin tone, living environment and sun exposure. In this blog, I will focus on temporary dry skin caused cold, dry winter weather.
Dehydrated or Dry Skin?
Yes, there is a difference and depending on which you have, you will want to treat your skin accordingly. If you don’t know the difference, you could be treating your skin but not getting the desired results.
Dry skin is a skin type. It is caused when the skin lacks oil due to decreased oil production. Surprisingly it isn’t caused by lack of hydration or water retention.
Dehydrated skin is a skin condition that occurs when the skin lacks moisture or water. Dehydrated skin lacks water due to external factors like dry weather or using indoor heaters. Thus, it is more common in the winter due to the cold, dry air.
Keep in mind that is also possible to have both dry skin and dehydrated skin at the same time. To combat dehydration, but not overdo the oil, it is important to choose products that moisturize the skin but do not clog the oil glands.
Individuals with acne may find that acne worsens due to winter skin changes. This may be due to an imbalance of oil and water on the skin or lifestyle changes, such as eating and exercise. There is also some evidence that the decrease in temperature and exposure to ultraviolet light can alter the immune system function and result in acne.
Skin Irritation can occur during the winter months too. Dry wind can take moisture out of skin and cause dry, flaking rashes. The problem is further compounded by the use of indoor heating. This will change the humidity levels and dry your skin. This can leave you with dry, flaky patches or red, scaly areas and can make it harder to use products, as the skin may be more sensitive.
Symptoms of Dry Skin?
Depending on the severity of your dry skin, you can have any or all of the following symptoms.
- A feeling of skin tightness
- Skin that feels and looks rough
- Itchiness (pruritus)
- Slight to severe flaking skin
- Slight to severe scaling or peeling
- Cracked "dry riverbed" look to leg
- Fine lines or cracks
- Skin that ranges from reddish on white skin to grayish on brown and black skin
- Deep cracks that may bleed
As you can imagine most of these symptoms are pretty uncomfortable and unsightly. Most importantly, it is your skin trying to tell you something and you know we are all about consciously listening to our bodies around here.
There are a few contributors to winter dry skin, but the three main culprits:
1.External Environment. Living in cold, windy conditions or low-humidity climates.
2. Internal Environment. Central heating, wood-burning stoves, space heaters and fireplaces all reduce humidity in our home.