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Why exactly does your skin behave differently in winter?

Every time winter rolls around we're all confronted with a barrage of marketing telling us about the important of 'winter skincare'. Moisturise more, exfoliate less. But why?

I'm sure we've all experienced the dry and itchy feeling that comes with cold weather, but why exactly does that happen? What is it about the cold weather that causes our skin to dry out and need a little extra TLC? Of course, whenever we have a question that needs a scientific answer, we turn to a scientific expert. Dr Michelle Rodrigues is a dermatologist, director of Chroma Dermatology at the Pigment and Skin of Colour Centre and skincare expert for CeraVe. She explains why the cold changes our skin, the other factors at play and what we can do about it.


Does our skin need a different kind of care when it's cold? Why is that?

When the weather cools down and humidity drops, water is lost from the skin – a process called trans-epidermal water loss. This makes the skin dry out. So, in cooler weather, we need to do whatever we can to lock moisture into the skin to keep it smooth, hydrated and soft.


Are there other environmental factors during winter (not just the cold) that can affect our skin?

We all do things to keep ourselves warm during winter, but these very things increase the risk of dryness and irritation of the skin

Showering more often will actually make dry skin worse! Turning the heater up will dry skin out. Turning up the temperature of the shower also dries out the skin. Wind may also dry out skin on our lips


What sorts of skin issues can people experience if skin isn't properly maintained during the cooler months?

Dry, cracked, itchy and irritated skin and sometimes dermatitis like eczema can result from very dry skin.


How can we keep our skin smooth and prevent dryness in winter?

A few things. Get yourself a soap free, fragrance free, hydrating cleanser and use it daily. Use a soap free, fragrance free, ceramide-containing moisturiser for your face and body. Don’t over-exfoliate – only use exfoliants if you have oily, acne prone skin. Have short, cool showers. Keep the heating down at home and try to pop humidity back into the room, either via a humidifier or by drying clothes over air vents in the house.


How does our skincare routine need to change in winter when compared to summer?

Some people may require heavier, thicker and more greasy moisturisers - generally creams and ointments - during the cooler months of the year.

Don’t forget to moisturise your lips and hands too! In summer you may be able to use lighter moisturisers like lotions.


What is something we should avoid/stop during winter to preserve our skin?

Avoid long, hot showers. Avoid turning the heater up at home and in the car. Avoid soap in the shower and on your face.


What is something you think more people should know about skin health?

The skin is the largest organ in the body – it plays so many vital roles so looking after it is critical. And prevention is better than cure.

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